Centennial Sighting: Alumni Finds Purpose Through Discipline
As Hillcrest's first graduating class was preparing their final weeks at school, Tellef Senum received a note from President Broen. Senum likely sat on his bed, palms sweating with his eyes on his suitcase as he opened the letter that would give him news of his discipline. The letter was a life line that Senum used to change his actions and realize what a life of eternal significance looks like.
Hillcrest was rounding the bend on their first of what would become 100 graduating classes as the seniors wrote their last letters home as Hillcrest students. Their wooden desks held a handful of envelopes that would carry messages of joy and excitement. Tellef Senum's desk sat bare except for a simple sheet of paper with fresh ink on it communicating disappointment and a discipline that would enable him to remain at Hillcrest.
As a sophomore, Senum likely was getting used to the freedom of life at Hillcrest. His friends were a joyous sight that often led him to exuberant activities. The staff were working to bridle the young man in an effort to guide him to maturity. While Senum bucked, the staff worked to discern if Hillcrest was the appropriate place for Senum to grow. They reached an impasse in March of Senum's sophomore year. It called the two parties to meet in mutual understanding. Senum responded marvelously.
The letter to Tellef stated, "The faculty has decided to campus you for four weeks from date, instead of sending you home, and this gives you another chance." Senum's heart likely leapt for joy, evidenced through an attitude change that led him to the rank of class president two years later.
Senum walked across the graduation platform at the Lutheran Brethren School building in Grand Forks in 1922 to shake the hand of the man who penned the disciplinary letter two years prior. Their meeting on the stage was a marking stone that propelled Senum to great heights in proceeding years.
Senum earned his B.S. from the University of North Dakota and his Master of Science and PH.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota after receiving his Hillcrest diploma. A series of teaching stints throughout North Dakota propelled the Hillcrest graduate to Los Angeles for a director of research position for the William T. Thompson Company. He moved up the ranks to become the Executive Vice President and Director of the company in 1955. In 1960, Senum established his own firm, called the Fibertone Company, manufacturing pharmaceuticals.
Senum's work in the field of science earned him a naming in the American Men of Science, Chemical Who's Who, Who's Who in the West, World's Who's Who in Commerce and Industry, Dictionary of International Biography, Personalities of the West and Midwest, and the Royal Blue Book (Leaders of the English Speaking World).
In 1976 Senum orchestrated a Golden Anniversary celebration for he and his classmates. They were the first four year students to attend Hillcrest Academy. Senum compiled a book that held a letter he wrote to the administration. The letter was a preface to pictures and memorabilia the class of 1922 willingly put together for the Lutheran Brethren archives as an inspiration to future classes. Senum's letter stated, "I estimate that at our Golden anniversary our average age is about 70 years and that is not too early to prepare a review of our past 50 years and to record our thanks to God for all the good things that have happened to us. Of course, I believe the first good thing that happened to all of us was when we were born. The second good thing was when we were born again."
Senum's book will be displayed in the J.H. Levang Archive Library, a new feature that will launch at the Centennial Celebration Graduation Weekend, May 26-28, 2017. The library will highlight how God has used Hillcrest as a beacon of light to high school students for over 100 years. A place for students, like Senum, to mature and grow convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and in Him there is life.