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Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Celebrating 100 Years of Sociology

First sociology course taught at Mankato Normal School in 1913.

Amanda Dyslin, Mankato Free Press, 5-4-2013

MANKATO — The very first sociology course was taught on the campus of the Mankato Normal School in 1913.

And that year, the social science department was established, beginning the 100-year history of studying human society at the now Minnesota State University, Mankato. To celebrate the longevity of the department — which has grown and changed significantly over the years — the college held a birthday party Friday with cake, photographs and lots of party guests.

“ We decided that’s quite a celebration,” said depart­ment chair Barbara Carson of the anniversary.

Minnesota State Mankato president Richard Davenport, faculty and staff, alumni and other special guests mingled and watched a program outlin­ing department history. They even sang the happy birthday song to them­selves.

Among the special guests in the Centennial Student Union Ballroom were descendants of the first sociology teacher, Gustav S. Petterson (1889-1965), who began in 1913.

Petterson did a KYSM radio show, “ The College Hour,” in the 1930s and 1940s, and faculty member Barbara Keating said the department was thrilled recently when his family donated the transcripts of those broadcasts to the Minnesota State Mankato library archives. The transcripts shed light on the books, current events and social issues over almost 15 years of campus and Mankato history through 1952.

Petterson became known as “ Socie Pete” and taught courses in anthropology, economics, criminology and race and ethnic studies. “ Students enjoyed his sharp, yet sometimes subtle, sense of humor,” according to his biography on the sociology and corrections web page.

Petterson’s daughter, Donna Carlson, agreed Friday that her dad’s humor was subtle.

“He had a wonderful sense of humor … but he never cracked a smile when he told a joke,” she said.

Petterson, who retired in 1957, enjoyed being a teacher, Carlson said — so much that he did a lot of it at home.

“He taught his wife Sociology 101. He taught his oldest son, my brother Neil, Sociology 101. He taught me Sociology 101,” Carlson said. “ So I got to experience him not only as a dad but as a teacher.”

Davenport acknowledged the department for its endurance and longevity.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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