Language Villages Founder Remembered

Dr. Gerhard “Gerry” Haukebo, founder of Concordia Language Villages and a former faculty member at Concordia College, died Sunday.

Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Wright Funeral Home, Moorhead. The memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Cormorant Lutheran Church in rural Lake Park, Minn.

In 1961, Haukebo envisioned a way to teach language and culture to young people, which eventually grew into the Concordia Language Villages that today provides cultural immersion programming in 15 languages for more than 10,000 language learners of all ages.

While overseeing a school for army dependents in Europe, Haukebo noticed how quickly children could pick up language skills when immersed in the culture for as little as a few days.

Back in the U.S., Haukebo decided to hold a two-week German camp called Waldsee in Minnesota’s North Woods. Seventy-five kids attended that summer, and Concordia Language Villages was born. Within five decades, it has grown from a single, two-week session to year-round opportunities for youth, adults, families and corporations.

Christine Schulze, vice president for Concordia Language Villages, says that Haukebo’s vision was revolutionary in the 1960s, and today it is the standard way of teaching language.

“Gerry had a creative spark in 1961 to infuse language and cultural immersion into a summer camp setting,” Schulze says. “Concordia Language Villages endures today from the vision and determination of one man to create a ‘grand simulation’ that creates the context for transformational learning.”

Haukebo traveled to the Language Villages whenever he could, most recently for International Day in August. His vision to combine language learning with cultural immersion has allowed Concordia Language Villages to continually be ahead of the curve. His in-person presence will be missed, but his legacy will continue to live on, educating people of all ages long into the future.