The Brittingham International Scholarship Saga
The Viking Program
In September of 1952 a young Dane, Henrik Gad, strolled across the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since there were about 300 foreign students on campus at that time, this was not a particularly noteworthy event — at least to the University authorities, his fellow students, and 185 other young people scattered around the world from Japan to Argentina. Yet, as a result of Henrik's stroll and his activities that year, a number of things have happened: an American family has been completely revitalized and its entire way of life changed; university authorities have had their eyes opened to a new concept of scholarships; the lives of 185 students who have come to this country have been materially affected; and some 27 young Americans have enjoyed the benefits of attending summer schools and traveling extensively in Scandinavia.
It started casually. A spur of the moment trip to Scandinavia on the part of Thomas E. Brittingham, Jr. and his long-time friend, George T. Weymouth, led them by chance into a meeting with a Danish widow, Mrs. Agnete Gad, the mother of Henrik. A few years after their return, Tom Brittingham received a letter from Mrs. Gad asking if there was anything he could do to help send her son to America for study. At first he felt highly put upon, but later realized that it would do no harm to utilize one of the Brittingham funds, the one left in trust by his father solely for the benefit of the University of Wisconsin to bring the boy over. He had liked young Gad and it would be interesting, he reasoned, to see what the boy could do in the U.S.
The problems connected with the foreign students coming to this country in the immediate post World War II period were basically twofold. First, the student had to survive exhaustive competitive examinations to qualify, and thus was chosen mainly on an intellectual basis. This tended to put applicants into the intellectual category which often meant a lack of desire or personality to participate in the extracurricular activities that form an important part of the American college scene. Second, these activities required money, and scholarships were not usually set up to encourage dating, joining fraternities, socializing, going to football games, or traveling extensively. Even if the students' families were well-off, currency restrictions at the time were such that students could not bring along much more than cigarette money. Thus the student was promised an intensive academic education but generally remained on the fringes of the college community.
But for Henrik Gad things were different. He was an attractive, personable young man, and because of this Tom Brittingham had already started to formulate some thoughts and ideas that were later to prove so successful. To begin with, he gave Henrik the financial means to join a fraternity, and this proved to be a tremendous help to him. There is no question that fraternities, as a system, are controversial, but for the foreign student they can be highly constructive. Instead of living alone in a large, sterile dormitory or in an isolated rooming house, Gad was moved into the Chi Psi Lodge where he roomed with several others — a strange and bewildering experience for a foreigner. Here, he shared the enforced lack of privacy and the give and take — typically American — that this arrangement produces.
Again through the fraternity, he was thrown into the social swirl and this, along with his penchant for meeting people, soon gained him a large number of friends of both sexes throughout the university. In short, he adapted so quickly and maintained such a creditable level of scholarship that be was offered further financial assistance at the end of the year by another interested Wisconsin family. This was followed by another scholarship so that he ended up graduating after three years. And so it began.
There were lessons to be learned from Henrik's experience — lessons to be learned by Tom Brittingham, by the university, and by Gad's fellow students. But the truly important thing was this: If Henrik had made such a fine impression on campus, why would'nt others do the same? Why not go to Scandinavia and personally interview other boys, picking them not only for their scholastic achievements but for their demonstrated leadership abilities, their personalities, their spirit and that "indefinable something that makes a person likeable"? Why not take these boys and set them up at the University? Give them enough money so that they would be able to live as many other university students live. Encourage them to join fraternities and to participate in extracurricular activities. And also, why not have them visit, as a group, the Brittingbam home in Wilmington, Delaware when they arrive in September? Or, even further, why not practically adopt them into the family?
Thus, in January, 1953, Tom Brittingham and his wife, Peg, flew to Scandinavia. He had friends in Stockholm and he knew a few people in Copenhagen, but in Oslo he knew no one. Yet, he had an idea and a new enthusiasm. He soon made contacts with various foundations (NorwegianAmerican, for example) in each country. But since this was an entirely new concept in scholarships, the foundations, although helpful, had no precise idea of what Tom wanted.
Nevertheless, interviews were eventually set up in each country. They were at times tedious since at first they were scheduled for 45 minutes each. This can be a long time for a frightened boy to whom English is an acquired language. But out of the chaos of that first trip, the Viking Scholarship took form. Three Norwegians, two Swedes, and two Danes formed the nucleus, and it was a wonderful thing that these particular seven were the type they were, for they pioneered an idea and an ideal. On their shoulders rested the ultimate success or failure of the project.
It is interesting to observe the changing reaction of Peg Brittingham. Up to the time of the first interview in Oslo, she intended to have nothing to do with Tom's ideas. But the furnishings of the hotel room with a curtain dividing the bedroom from the living room changed all that. Sitting in the bedroom, she was bound to overhear the interviews her husband was conducting a few feet away. Finally, overcome by curiosity, she came out, and this was the start of her participation. By the time she returned to the U.S., she, too, was bubbling with enthusiasm, sensing fully the potential of what they were attempting. Tom's two sons listened to the results quizzically and remarked to each other, "Well, here he goes again!"
The lists in the Appendix show that there were no Finns in the first three Viking classes, even though the Brittinghams, like most Americans, had long respected the strategically located and indomitable country that "had been fighting the Russians for the past 800 years." So in 1955 the Brittinghams undertook to remedy this situation. Three of them arrived in Helsinki on a cold, snowy November night. The third member of the party was Tom III who, intrigued by the potential of what could be, had forsaken the joys of southern California and returned to Wilmington some months before.
It was a typical Brittingham arrival. They knew no one, they could speak neither of the country's two languages — Swedish and Finnish — and they weren't at all sure how to accomplish their goal. Yet when they left two days later, they had added three outstanding young men to the program, one of whom, incidentally, was elected captain of the 4th Class. Over the years, contributions of the Finnish Vikings have been considerable, and this speaks well for the decision to include them in the program.
Now to return to the first Class. In September, 1953, the seven arrived in this country and were whisked down to Wilmington for a visit with the Brittinghams. They were plunged into strenuous social activities, which, though fascinating, were certainly not typical of America as a whole. Then they were packed off to Madison where they lived for awhile at the Brittingham home. Later, Tom flew to Madison to work out the fraternity rushing situation, among other things. This was neatly resolved with each boy pledging a different fraternity, and each living in a house. Soon they were settled, and from then on, it was pretty much up to them to do the job - and what a job they did!
It is axiomatic that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. So, too, you can bring foreigners to a country, establish them at a university, find them favorable lodging, but you simply cannot make them take part in what that country has to offer. Nor can you make other students accept them beyond a certain limit. But these seven had it: the system and the theory worked. Picked for aggressiveness, demonstrated leadership, and extroversion, they lost none of these qualities in their new lives. The University was treated to a new spectacle that came to be known as the "Viking Spirit." This on-campus behavior innately sprang from the boys themselves, and they soon organized themselves into a tightly-knit group, developing credos and ideals that have governed all succeeding classes. They went everywhere they seemingly met everyone andthey missed little.
The first class of Vikings also set the pattern for off-campus travels. During vacation periods, they visited the homes of friends and fraternity brothers. In the spring recess they piled into cars and drove straight through to Florida where they bummed around on the beaches. They cooked their own food and lived on a paltry, yet typically American college budget (10 days, Madison to Madison, plus their stay in Fort Lauderdale, for a total of $90). How did they exist? The answer is simple and thoroughly American — beans, bologna, and more beans. It was not a Hotel Fontainebleau existence, but it was eminently satisfactory.
In June, the seven squeezed into the Brittingham station wagon and drove to Texas, where the Brittingham's Texas ranching relatives graciously put them up and showed them that part of the country. In just a week there, a touch of Texas drawl edged its way into rapidly-fading Scandinavian accents. Then they moved on to New Orleans to pay homage to the birthplace of jazz, a city always fascinating to students of all countries. From there, they moved on to the coast of Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Washington, D. C., and Maryland, ending up at the Brittingham home in Wilmington, Delaware.
The 5th Class of Vikings and all that followed enjoyed a special treat. As the 4th Class headed back to Scandinavia aboard the S.S. Stockholm, they had the good fortune to meet a truly fine American — one William Waller Young, a New Orleans attorney. Mr. and Mrs. Young charmed the Vikings, and the feeling proved to be mutual. Young was so impressed with the quality of the group and the idea behind it that he issued an invitation to each succeeding class to stay at his home when the group came to New Orleans. It is one thing to make this offer to a group he had grown to know aboard ship, but it was the mark of this man that, on the strength of an idea, he offered his home to groups yet to come. When the 5th Class arrived in New Orleans, Young met the group and calmly turned his home over to them with the remark that to make room for all, he had moved his family to their country home. The Vikings were, and still are, completely overwhelmed and deeply touched by this gesture of trust and kindness.
There have been other instances of the type of faith shown by the Youngs. For example, Tom and Liz Renn of Iron Mountain, Michigan annually invited all Vikings to their home for the week between semesters to enjoy the skiing facilities in the area. Their friendliness and generosity were heart-warming, and the boys were given even more insight into one of the better American attributes . . . hospitality.
Not only did the First Class set the pattern for off-campus travels, it also set the pattern for a permanent organization once its members returned to their homes. They planted the seed of what is now known as the Viking Organization. On the way home they decided to have a convention, thus keeping in close touch. This resolve, often made but rarely kept, was real. They established a perpetual roundrobin letter; they elected a "contact man" from each country; wrote down an account of their experiences which, when added annually, became a guide for each succeeding class — what spots to see, whom to visit, what courses were worthwhile and which left something to be desired; and discovered much general information about the life on campus. Soon they developed distinctive insignia — a recognition pin, and a coat of arms suitable for use on a blazer or on a specially-made necktie. They adopted a motto: For pleasure in the present and profit in the future.
In the early days while some of the Vikings were still attending universities at home, they decided to display their University of Wisconsin connection on special occasions. Thus in 1958 when a distinguished member of the university faculty arrived in Sweden to accept a Nobel Prize, a Swedish Viking arranged to have the School of Technology Brass Band serenade him with a recognizable, but unmistakably Swedish version of "On Wisconsin." This created such a commotion at the airport that the simultaneous arrival of a famous movie star passed quite unnoticed.
By the time they met for their first convention in Denmark in August, 1954, they had drawn up by-laws and written a constitution; a growing concern. The second convention was held in the lovely southern Sweden area of Skane with excellent attendance. The next year was Oslo's turn, then to Denmark, Finland, and back to Sweden. They had established an equitable system of rotation.
Conventions are conventions. They are a time for reunion and play. For the Vikings they are also a time for learning and work. All conventions have been like this, but some sort of a high point was reached with the one held in Wilmington on September 17-22, 1963. At that time, the entire Viking group (wives included, of course) flew on a chartered SAS plane to New York where special buses waited to transfer them to their destination. The occasion was made notable by fine meals, dances, informal gatherings, and swimming at the Brittingham estate. A memorable museum tour for the wives, and an equally memorable barn dance at Honorary Viking George Weymouths farm. But there was a serious side, too, consisting of business meetings and talks by leaders in the fields of politics, education, and finance, each followed by questions and answers.
At the conclusion of the convention, many Vikings and their wives flew to Madison to renew old acquaintances and see old sights. The stay in that city featured picnics at the summer homes of two Honorary Vikings and a public lecture given by a Viking who had led a Finnish expedition to carry on archeological excavations in the area soon to be flooded by the Aswan Dam.
Meanwhile, in Madison, an important Viking event took place. In the presence of high University officials, the Vikings dedicated a rune stone on Muir Knoll to the memory of their beloved patron, Tom Brittingham, who had succumbed to a sudden heart attack on April 16, 1960. The inscription on the stone reads, "To a good friend the way is not long, though he be far away." At the same time, a bronze plaque with Tom's profile was presented to the university. It was later mounted in the lobby of the Commerce Building where Tom had met with so many classes.
To all concerned, the formation of the Viking Organization was a rewarding thing. No one could tell these men or force them to perpetuate their experiences in this way. It had to come from the heart; it had to be spontaneous. And so it was. It has turned out to be the most important aspect of the whole program, and the most interesting thing is that it was not foreseen by the Brittinghams in 1953.
Tom's untimely death signalled the end of the Viking program. However, a new program was instituted along the same lines, and it became known as the Valiant program. The chief difference between the two was that Tom Brittingham had personally selected each Viking. The Valiants never had the good fortune to know him. Since the Valiants attended all Viking functions, particularly the conventions, the distinction between the two groups soon disappeared, and the Valiants came to be known as the 9th and 10th Classes of Vikings.
And so the program had enjoyed a life of 10 years. During this time, 79 young Scandinavians enjoyed the advantages of spending a year at the University of Wisconsin. One consideration in deciding to end the programs was that a group limited to the size it was, could remain cohesive. A larger group spread over more years would inevitably suffer the strains of wide age differentials.
The term "family" as a description of an organization is often overworked. Businesses like to use it as a stimulant to morale and loyalty. Yet it is the only one that can adequately characterize the Vikings. They literally became members of the Brittingham family, and they truly feel, even to this day, as brothers to one another.
In a way that is unusual even for an organization of this kind, the parents of the Vikings became involved early. Going far beyond simple gratitude for the opportunities offered their sons, the parents led the Brittinghams into a new and fascinating world, and a world seldom seen by the average tourist. Practically every evening was spent with the families of the boys, and the warmth and friendliness of these wonderful people made the project even more worthwhile for the Brittinghams. Like most Scandinavians, the parents of the Vikings tended to be pro-American, but in varying degrees. Many things Americans do confuse them, to be sure, and it takes a great amount of understanding of the American people and way of life to see why they act as they do. The Vikings understood, and their understanding was transferred to their parents with some far-reaching results. It was another unforeseen aspect of the program, but an important one.
It soon became obvious, as the Vikings married, that their wives were enthusiastic members of the family. This is evident, not only at conventions, but also at meetings of the contact men and other informal gatherings. The wives have strong ideas about what the Vikings as an organization should be doing, and they do not hesitate to give voice to their convictions. Their hospitality toward visitors from the States is most cordial, as anyone who has experienced it can testify.
The interest in continuing loyalty to the Viking Organization shown by family members was well illustrated at the August, 1977 convention when the parents and widow of Axel Boel — a Danish Viking whose untimely death caused great sorrow in March, 1974 — entertained those in attendance by giving a party for them.
Peg Brittingham's position in the Viking family, as it has developed over the years, is worthy of special note. As the Vikings began to get married, she (and of course, Tom, as long as he lived) received wedding invitations and announcements. As the families began to grow, she received news of each new birth. In addition, she continues to receive many personal letters, perhaps only one or two notes a year from many of the Vikings, yet sincere tokens of affection. And whenever a Viking comes to this country, he either visits Peg at her home or, if unable to do so, calls her long distance.
There have been many special occasions that illustrate the Vikings' affection for Peg. When she reached a milestone birthday, she received a silver plate hand engraved with the signature of each Viking. There was also the time in 1974 when Peg was invited to come to Sweden to christen a new tanker baing launched for a company presided over by a Norwegian Viking. Needless to say, she was present.
In 1957 Tom Brittingham said, "Originally, I had estimated that if, by good personal selection, 10% of my Vikings proved to be leaders in their countries, then the program would be a success. Now I am sure that the figure will be at least 50%." His optimism was based on a conviction that the Vikings were bound to benefit from a combination of educational opportunities. On the one hand, in their home countries the emphasis was on high scholastic attainment; in this country it was on the development of initiative.
As proof that this combination produced good results, Tom pointed out that "When there was competition between Vikings and others for exceptional positions, the Vikings have been consistent winners." On one occasion, for instance, a large American pharmaceutical company was seeking a promising young European for its office in Switzerland. A representative interviewed a number of men in Sweden, and the finalists were flown to Geneva. A Viking won, and to his surprise, he found that his major competitor in the finals had been another Viking.
The very existence of the Viking Organization, of course, was a factor in facilitating a business career. For instance, if a Norwegian Viking needed assistance in a transaction in another Scandinavian country, he had only to call any of the Vikings in that country for help. Or, even farther afield, a Viking living in another part of the world, say South America, could arrange to barter his goods or services for those available in one of the Scandinavian countries.
Doubtless these connections can be important in business careers. And Tom was correct in pointing out the advantages of the educational opportunities enjoyed by the Vikings. But one must not overlook the importance of Tom's phrase "by good personal selection." Others are favored by good business connections and educational advantages similar to those possessed by the Vikings without distinguishing themselves. What Tom sought was an additional factor, easily overlooked. In his interviews he was looking for an intangible that can be called "quality" or "character" and surely this has been decisive in the careers of the Vikings. Tom had the uncanny ability to detect this trait.
We are in a position today to measure quite accurately the successes the Vikings have achieved in their careers. Tom Brittingham was able to predict these successes on the basis of early evidence. Actually, the Viking directory published in 1977 indicates that his estimate of 50% was a bit conservative. Granted, a directory cannot tell the whole story, and nevertheless, 40 Vikings are listed as owners and/or chief executive officers of their companies. Another 14 occupy positions on the vice presidential level. Seven work for their governments either at home or abroad, and the rest are scattered in such fields as journalism, law, consulting, banking, education, medicine, architecture, and farming. In the non-business fields, it is difficult to identify success in terms of position on an organization chart. It is known, however, that Vikings are important contributors in these areas.
So these are the Vikings. We must now turn to a consideration of several Viking-related groups.
The Honorary Vikings
Earlier we referred to the Honorary Vikings. Who are they? For the most part, they are those who have contributed to making the Vikings' stay in this country more pleasant or who have shown extraordinary interest in the program. The Youngs and the Renns, mentioned above, are good examples of the former. Some are members of the Brittingham family who have opened their homes to the Vikings who came their way. Some are Tom's friends who entertained the Vikings either in Madison or Wilmington. Some have attended conventions in Scandinavia; all are included in and have great loyalty to the Viking family.
The Reverse Vikings
Tom Brittingham was fond of using the analogy of the ripples caused by a stone thrown into a pool to illustrate the spread of an idea. His stone in the Viking Scholarship pond has indeed resulted in an ever-widening and quite unforeseen number of ripples. We have already noted some of them — the involvement of the parents, the wives, and the Honorary Vikings. Now we must describe the most important of them all: the so-called Reverse Vikings (RVS).
In 1960, the Vikings were looking for a way to express their appreciation for what Tom Brittingham had done for them and to contribute to his goal of improving Scandinavian-American relations. What better way than to bring an American student to Scandinavia for the summer? Thus, they proposed a Reverse Viking program under which a junior from the University of Wisconsin would come to the Oslo Summer School where all courses are taught in English. And so, the annual Viking dues, collected since 1954, would provide the funds for the scholarship. The first Reverse Viking arrived in the summer of 1960.
The selection of the scholar was made on a competitive basis with the Vikings on campus interviewing a large number of applicants. After the field had been narrowed to five or six, Tom Brittingham III came to Madison to make the final choice.
This procedure, however, faced certain difficulties, especially with the conclusion of the Viking program in 1963. Only the returned RVs were available to select their successors. Moreover, carrying out the details of the selection process was more than undergraduates should have to do.
Thus in the fall of 1963, the writer was asked to serve as chairman of the Reverse Viking selection committee. During that first year the 10th Class of Vikings and the most recent RV were available for the interviews. After that, only the returned RVs were on campus. The chairman's duties consisted of publicizing the scholarship in various ways, receiving applications, corresponding with the Vikings and summer school officials, and arranging for preliminary and final interviews. He remained in this position until his retirement in 1973, being succeeded by Mr. Peter Bunn, Assistant to the Vice Chancellor, who has been the focal point for Viking activities in Madison ever since.
Then on January 10, 1965, the Viking Organization sustained a most grievous loss - Tom III died at the young age of 36. In his memory the Vikings decided to sponsor another RV each year so that for the rest of the program two American undergraduates went to Scandinavia annually. Quite unrelated to Tom's death, the RVs that year — and for two years after — attended the summer school in Uppsala, Sweden. After that they again enrolled in the Oslo summer school.
Following the death of Tom III, his brother Baird Brittingham came to Madison annually to make the final selections. Within a few years, the number of RVs in the Middle West increased so that the interviews — particularly the final interviews — became large affairs, especially after the wives began to participate. Each year the selection formalities reached a climax at a dinner at a local country club honoring the newly-selected scholars. Usually about 30 people were in attendance.
The RVs planned their summer so that they arrived in Scandinavia a week or so before classes began — a period of indoctrination, so to speak, into the ways of the local Vikings. When classes began, there was work to do, but the weekends were a time for travel and social events in the host country.
With the close of summer school, the scholars departed for a grand tour of the other Scandinavian countries. They were shown the sights, taken on cruises, entertained at numerous parties, and offered hospitality in the homes of various Vikings in each country. When the school calendar here permitted it, they concluded their stay by attending the Viking convention. It was easy for them to fit into this schedule since the selection process had generally resulted in the RVs having much the same characteristics as the Vikings themselves.
The RVs show the same penchant for organizing as do the Vikings. They have a contact man, and they issue directories and publish newsletters from time to time. Usually twice a year they have short business meetings in connection with some function.
They also have the same bent for socializing. One gathering normally takes place at Homecoming in the fall; another may celebrate the summer solstice or the crayfish season. At each event they sing "Helan gaar" as lustily as any Scandinavian. At one time, all Vikings were invited to attend one of the crayfish dinners. The RVs were flattered when one Viking flew from Helsinki to participate.
The Reverse Vikings also have a strong family feeling. Thus when the brother of a Norwegian Viking did graduate work at the university for several years, he and his wife were, of course, included in all RV functions. And when the brother of a Wisconsin Viking visited Madison in 1977 (see story below), he was shown the city and entertained at a dinner party.
The Reverse Viking program continued through 1975, and during that time some 27 American students spent a pleasant and profitable summer in Scandinavia. Surely this is a ripple that Tom Brittingham would have viewed with pleasure.
The Kubly/Bunn Scholarship
Reluctant to allow the Viking-related programs to end, the Reverse Vikings proposed in 1975 to set up a new scholarship — one that would annually bring two Scandinavian students to summer school at the University of Wisconsin. It would be known as the Kubly Scholarship, named over the not-too-strenuous objections of the writer. The Vikings, too, agreed to support the proposal.
The Vikings' part consists of soliciting candidates either by publicizing the scholarship or by consulting with their national foundations. After securing a list of applicants, designated Vikings conduct interviews and make the final selections. A rotation plan has been instituted so that in a given year the two scholars come from the same country.
The first pair of the new scholars arrived in Madison in June, 1976, a Norwegian girl and boy. In 1977 two Swedish boys spent the summer at the university.
The scholarship is financed by contributions from the Reverse Vikings and friends. In addition, a generous grant comes from the Gisholt John A. Johnson Foundation of Madison. This foundation is dedicated, among other things, to providing scholarships and to promoting good Scandinavian-American relations.
Just as the Vikings entertained the RVs during their summer in Scandinavia, so the RVs entertain the new scholars during their stay in this country. The pattern that is emerging is something like this: a picnic to welcome the new arrivals in Madison, weekend tours and fishing trips, and visits to Milwaukee, Chicago, and Minneapolis as guests of RVs living in those cities. During the week the scholars are occasionally invited to dinners arranged by local RVs or by friends of the program in Madison. Before returning to their homes, they visit New York, Washington, and Wilmington. Fortunately, RVs are located in these latter cities so that they can act as hosts.
Once again we have a new ripple, one that also would have pleased Tom Brittingham.
The Wisconsin Viking Scholarship
During the summer of 1965, Fred Harvey Harrington, then President of the University of Wisconsin, established a scholarship that came to be known as the Wisconsin Viking Scholarship. He did this, as stated in a letter of intent, "not only in recognition of the excellence of the program under the sponsorship of Tom Brittingham, but as a memorial to him."
The amount received by each scholar was sufficient to cover the cost of a year at the university. As originally conceived, the program was to continue for five years. However, since this did not permit an even distribution of scholars among the four Scandinavian countries, Edwin Young, Chancellor of the Madison campus in the newly-merged university system, extended the program for an additional three years. Thus each country had two scholars during the life of the scholarship.
The Vikings, of course, played a part in the selection of these scholars. This consisted of narrowing the number of applicants to three, who were then interviewed by a member of the university faculty who happened to be European and could conveniently travel to the proper country to conduct interviews. He then made the final recommendation to President Harrington. The selection of the last three scholars was left up to the Vikings.
The Wisconsin Vikings entered into activities such as the RV selection interviews and all social events such as the RV banquet and the fall and spring functions.
The Viking program had barely had time to make its impact in 1953 when another project developed. The University authorities, led by President E. B. Fred, became so fascinated with this new type of foreign student that they asked Tom Brittingham if the program could be expanded. It was. From various applications to the Institute of International Education, President Fred and Tom selected eight more students, two girls and six boys. Their countries were varied: Peru, Italy, Greece, Sweden, and Germany. Some turned out to be highly successful, others less so. But again, it was the start of a new idea.
Naturally, these students could not receive the personal family attention of the Brittinghams, but Tom did the best he could, lunching with them when he could, encouraging and urging them to join fraternities and sororities, and pointing out that they should engage in as many outside activities as possible.
The next year, 1955-56, twelve more Internationals joined the group. The spread was even greater: Holland, Italy, Argentina, Chile, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, France, and Japan. This group was picked by the Scholarship Committee at the University made up of some two to fifteen members. Again, there were some fine results and some abject failures. What was the difference? It seemed to be the personal — and by now tested — method of selection. Pictures, curricula vitae, and high school recommendations did not produce the results achieved by personal interviews.
After his next trip, Tom recommended several Scandinavians to the Scholarship Committee who, in his opinion, would be able to get the most out of what the year had to offer. These recommendations were accepted, and so the 1956-57 group included four with whom he had dealt personally. They could not have worked out better. There was more cohesion in the group, more expansion of outside activities, and everyone was pleased with the results.
A final decision was made. For the 1957-58 Internationals, the Brittinghams agreed to do all of the interviewing, and in order to expand they ageed to go to Germany where they would interview both German and Dutch boys and girls. Of the eleven picked, three were girls who were interested in journalism.
The 1957-58 group was also distinctive in that for the first time, students from Iceland were included. In 1956 Tom had read a magazine article describing the deterioration of Icelandic-American relations. He decided that in a small way he would work for an improvement by bringing students from that country to ours. Three came to the University of Wisconsin and three went to the University of Delaware. This was the first extension of Internationals to that university. Altogether in the remaining years of the program, 24 students attended the University of Delaware and one attended Swarthmore College.
However, the Internationals lacked one thing the Vikings had, namely an effective organization. Attempts were made to hold conventions, but they were only partially successful and soon abandoned. It was to be expected; the Internationals were too diverse a group.
While on campus, the Vikings and the Internationals saw a great deal of one another. Together they paid a ceremonial visit to President Fred upon their arrival in Madison. The Internationals from Scandinavia still see the Vikings from time to time. And two of the girls who married Americans in the Midwest still call on President Fred when they visit Madison.
As noted earlier, the Internationals program came to an end at the University of Wisconsin in 1961. It continued until 1963 at the University of Delaware.
And so we have brought the saga up to date. It is appropriate to let Tom III have the last word. Commenting on the passing of his father in 1960, he wrote: "This vivid, imaginative, far sighted and truly great American has ended forever his efforts for better international relations. It came so quickly and unexpectedly that the shock felt among his many friends all over the world was considerable. As condolences came in, as editorials were written, as tributes from his many acquaintances were expressed, one thing became increasingly clear to his immediate family: the man had many facets — he was a financial genius, an enlightened philanthropist, and a strong believer and follower in any kind of constructive research. All of this had led to a brilliant and varied career, with many successes in all fields. Yet in the final analysis, he was best noted for his International work. He had foreseen this some years back.
In 1957 Tom Brittingham said, 'the results of the Viking and International programs will prove to be far more permanent and everlasting, as the ripples of influence expand in ever enlarging circles, than any granite tombstone with which they might mark my grave in the years to come.'
Since this "Saga" was written in 1977 many things have happened and the Brittingham Viking Organization is more alive than ever. Some scholarships have been terminated, but many more new ones have been created and are running. Yearly conventions have been continued, the 50th held in Madison in 2003. Check the section "BVO Scholarship Programs" for an update on all active scholarship programs or send for our new book "RIPPLES ON THE WATER" by Göran Palm, issued in 2003 on the occasion of BVO's 50. anniversary, and bringing the "Saga" up to date.
Scott & Ella Brittingham Viking Scholarship
In 2011, Scott and Ella Brittingham launched and began generously funding the Scott & Ella Brittingham Viking Scholarship, a preservation of the BVO's cornerstone program, the Brittingham Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship enables two Scandinavian students to study at UW-Madison for the full academic year, providing support for tuition, housing, travel and other necessary expenses. Scholars are selected from various Scandinavian countries through a highly competitive selection process, driven and administered by BVO alumni. Scott and Ella Brittingham's leadership and commitment to the BVO continue their long-standing relationship with the Brittingham family, as well as their continued tribute to Thomas E. Brittingham, Jr.