Mae Elizabeth Sorensen Wallenkampf

1915 - 2007

Mae Wallenkampf, a singer, clarinetist, violinist, pianist, and organist, was an active musician throughout her life. Early in her career, she taught music at three academies in the Midwest and then, as a mother of three and a wife whose husband's career necessitated several moves, taught music in schools and gave private lessons in voice and piano wherever they were located.

Mae was born in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, the fifth of eleven children born to Maurice and Petra Sorensen, who both had natural musical gifts. Her father had played violin in Denmark before emigrating to the U.S., and although he had not brought his instrument with him, he enjoyed singing for his own pleasure in his new life in America.

The children all sang and learned to play instruments and participated in music ensembles at home and in school. At Christmas time the brothers would sing choir music they had learned in school as they and their father cleaned up following the holiday meal, while the women visited in the next room.

Mae and a younger sister, Evelyn, took piano lessons from a series of teachers who periodically visited their town. Lessons were infrequent, and both sisters essentially taught themselves to play. Both possessed considerable musical talent and became proficient pianists as well as singers. Mae particularly enjoyed singing.

She attended high school and then attended Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, where she graduated with a degree in music and English. While there she was active in many activities. Everett Dick, college historian, would later write how she led the girls in competition with the boys in raising money for a new library in the 1930s. He described the launching of that campaign in a school assembly:

Mae Sorensen, a leader of the girls, gave a pep talk to the girls and asserted that the distaff side of the house, two hundred strong, was behind the project 100 percent. The entire group of maidens responded by singing "There's a team that's always happy" to the well-known World War I song, Smiles. The captain of the boys, Kimber Johnson, responded for his cavalcade by telling a "bedtime story" - a mighty conflict, the battle of letters, took place between Lady Rees' (Pearl Rees, dean of women) haughty maidens and Sir Habenicht's (Guy Habenicht, dean of men) gallant knights about the Castle of Research.

While the end of Johnson's story had the "knights" winning, the "haughty maidens" under Mae's leadership actually won the competition, raising more money for the "Castle of Research" than the "gallant knights." She was also active in college music ensembles, playng violin in the orchestra and singing in the choirs and a girls' trio.

Following graduation from UC in 1938, Mae served as preceptress (girl's dean) at Maplewood Academy, where she also taught English. In 1942 she accepted a music teaching position at Plainview Academy in South Dakota, where she taught piano and voice lessons, directed the choir, and started a band.

During the time she had been at MWA, she had assisted in the summers with the music for evangelistic meetings being conducted by the pastor and his assistant, Arnold V. Wallenkampf, a new pastor in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. She and Arnold subsequently married and then accepted teaching positions at Sheyenne River Academy in North Dakota, where they taught for two years, from 1944 to 1946.

In 1946 Arnold, a talented linguist who could speak and write seven languages, was hired to teach at Union College in the theology department. Seven years later he was chosen to head the department, a position he would hold until 1956, when he accepted an invitation to serve on the ministerial staff and teach at the College of Medical Evangelists, now Loma Linda University.

In 1963 he and Mae moved to South Lancaster, Massachusetts, where he served as chair of the Division of Theology and Religion at Atlantic Union College. While there, he completed a Ph.D. in 1969 at the University of California in Los Angeles.

The Wallenkampfs moved to the Philippines to teach at Philippine Union College in 1972. Four years later, he became associate director of the General Conference Biblical Research Institute in Washington, D.C., where he served until his retirement in 1981. At that time they retired in Luray, Virginia. They were residing in Grand Terrace, California, at the time of his death in 1998.


Sources: 1937 Golden Cords, Union College yearbook, listing of orchestra personnel; Everett Dick, Union, College of the Golden Cords, 1967, 330 (quotation about fundraising); Northern Union Outlook, 15 March 1938, 2; 25 April 1939, 4; 23 May 1939, 3; 1 December 42, 5; 9 June 1953, 4; Atlantic Union Gleaner, 27 June 1972, 6; Adventist Review, 18 December 1980, 2; Interview, Evelyn Lauritzen, 28 July 2009; Pacific Union Recorder, 30 July 1956, 2;


Mae Wallenkampf

I like November. True, it is gray, and the trees are bare. But now you can see through the woods. Now the graceful (or knotty) shapes of the trees' limbs are revealed, branches and trunk - gaunt, without any adornment of leaves to cover them. I think they are beautiful.

From my southern California window in former days, above the orange groves I could see snowcapped "old Grayback" mountain in November. In summertime it was hidden from my view by foliage.

This November in Maryland I can see the most gorgeous sunsets across the park below our hill. In the "good ol' summertime" the leaves of flowering pear trees line our sidewalks and obstruct my kitchen-window view.

Oh, I love "October's bright blue weather," January's soft white snow, and September's goldenrod and fringed gentians. And I can sing with the poet, "What is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days."

But give me a quiet, gray November day with the trees showing their true form in a stark serene beauty. It's like February-a waiting month-a time of meditation and preparation for spring that comes in March. November waits for Thanksgiving and Christmas when we take a little time to be more thankful and to celebrate our Saviour's first advent.

Yes, November is a special time to do a little soul-searching and to think about the meaning of those bare trees and woods that we can see through. Now is the Lord's November. He sees through me. It is almost year's end and almost time's end. A poet has said it well:

"My soul before the Lord is always bare; I wonder if he finds (sees) some beauty there."

Adventist Review, 4 November 1982, 9