General Conference President to Speak for Graduation

Jan Paulsen to inspire the class of 2007

By: Becky Beddoe

Jan Paulsen

The selection process for the speaker for Walla Walla College’s 2007 commencement ceremony began during the graduating class’ junior year.  The class selected Jan Paulsen, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, to speak. 

The General Conference is the world-wide headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  It is based in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Paulsen has a life-long connection to the Seventh-day Adventist church.  He was born one of four children to Adventist parents in Narvik, Norway, on January 5, 1935, and was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist church at the age of 14.  

After completing his early education in Narvik, Paulsen received ministerial training at Vejlefjord, the Adventist junior college in Denmark.  From there he went to Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, Mich., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1957.  

Paulsen also holds a master’s degree from the Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., a bachelor’s degree in divinity from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, a doctorate degree in theology from Tubingen University in Germany,  and three honorary degrees from Southwestern Adventist University (doctorate of laws), Andrews University (doctorate of divinity), and La Sierra University (doctor of divinity).

In 1955, Paulsen began his career as a pastor and leader in the Adventist church, and in 1962, the Paulsens began a missionary project in Bekwai, Ghana, West Africa.  During this time, Paulsen was instrumental in setting up the first education degree program in sub-Sahara Africa.  This was done at the Adventist College of West Africa in Nigeria, where Paulsen served as head of the theology department until 1968 when he became the school’s principal.

Following his service in Africa, Paulsen served at Newbold College, the Seventh-day Adventist institute of higher education in England, as head of the theology department, and subsequently served as principal until 1980.  At that point, Paulsen began acting as the General Secretary and Education Director for the Trans-European Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

During the World Session in Utrecht, the Netherlands, in 1995, Paulsen was elected as general vice president of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  As such, he was influential in strengthening and expanding Adventist work in several countries of Eastern Europe after the collapse of communism.  Paulsen also assisted in establishing church organization in Albania, which, until 1990, was closed to all religions.

Paulsen is recognized as a distinguished scholar in the field of theology.  Over the years he has published numerous articles and papers that have been prepared for commissions and conference publications.  Paulsen is the author of two books, “When the Spirit Descends,” and “Let Your Life So Shine.”

Pauslen and his wife, Kari Trykkerud, have three grown children: Laila, who lives in England, Jan-Rune, residing in Norway, and Rein Andre, who is currently working in Singapore.

Walla Walla College’s commencement ceremony begins at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 10, on Centennial Green on the campus of Walla Walla College.  For more information on this and other graduation weekend events, contact the Office of the President at 509-527-2121.

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