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Dakota Datebook

Richard Beck


Richard Beck was a teacher, scholar, writer, poet, and honorary North Dakotan. Beck was born on June 9, 1897, in Iceland. Unfortunately, his father passed away in 1907 when Richard was only ten, leaving his mother to raise him. He attended school in Reykjavik and graduated high school in 1920. He married that same year on October 10 to Olöf Daníelsdóttir. Their life together proved tragically short when around this date in 1921 his bride died.

In the fall of that year, Richard and his mother emigrated to Winnipeg. Richard left for Ithaca, New York in 1922 to attend Cornell University, where he studied English and Scandinavian literature. He received his M.A. in 1924 and Ph.D. in 1926. He married Bertha Una Kristbojorg in 1925,  and they had two children, Margaret Helen and Richard Jr.

In 1929, the family moved to Grand Forks where Beck joined the staff at the University of North Dakota. He headed the department of modern and classical languages. During his time at UND, he published 15 books and over 500 hundred articles. Eventually, both UND and the University of Iceland would give him honorary doctorates. He also served as honorary consul of Iceland for North Dakota. Sadly, both his mother and wife passed away in 1958. He remarried three years later to Margaret Brandson, whom he spent the rest of his days with. He retired in 1967, after 38 years at UND. That same year the pair moved to Victoria, British Columbia. 

On December 16th, 1971, Richard and Margaret held a ceremony at their home where they presented an initial volume from their vast collection of Icelandic and Scandinavian books to the University of Victoria. That wealth of knowledge was slowly transferred over the years, and in their wills, they also left money to fund public lectures on Icelandic literature and culture.

Richard Beck died July 23, 1980, and Margaret followed him five years later, and on February 14, 1988, the first "Richard and Margaret Beck Lecture on Icelandic Literature" took place.

Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas






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