Distinguished Alumnus Karl Sandelin

Distinguished Alumnus Karl Sandelin

Alumni Information

Distinguished Alumnus

Karl Sandelin (2009-2010)sandelin

Born on October 16, 1928, in Helsinki, Finland. At the age of 20, when studying languages at the University of Helsinki, the Institute of International Education granted him a scholarship for a year’s study at Western for which he arrived six weeks late in 1948. Having had only three years of exposure to English in school and with limited comprehension of English, he managed to negotiate through Dr. Brown’s “Shakespeare” and Mrs. Heinrich’s “Rhetoric” classes and learned that expressing oneself in writing was not a chore but an opportunity and a joy.

Western granted him an extension and in 1950 he was able to finish his Bachelor’s degree in English, with minors in German and Group Science. Returning to Finland for his compulsory military service, in 1951 Sandelin continued studies at WMU toward his Master’s degree in the Teaching of Languages, which he finished in 1953.

In 1954 he began service in the U.S. Army, gained U.S. citizenship, served as tank commander in a training unit and in army intelligence in Germany. Following army service, aided by an ability to communicate ideas and concepts (attributing this to his studies in English) and fluency in multiple languages, his career ultimately was in international commerce. His working career was with Kalsec, a local company that produces spice, herb, hop and vegetable extracts for use in food, beverage and pharmaceutical applications.

In 1958 he became Vice President for Production and in 1970 he assumed responsibility for International Operations for Kalsec, overseeing the management of a production facility in Ethiopia and its agricultural production of raw materials. He also directed Kalsec’s worldwide raw material acquisition and the export of Kalsec products, in 1987 receiving the “Michigan Exporter of the Year Award”.

Before and after his retirement from Kalsec in 1988, he was engaged in a variety of community activities and volunteer work: Kalamazoo School Board member 1966-70, governor of Rotary District 6360, elected representative to the Rotary International Councils on Legislation, Senior Warden of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, and founder and President of Kalamazoo’s “Walking Together,” a non-profit community initiative aiming at reducing illnesses that are preventable through increased physical activity. Karl will be honored by the College of Arts & Sciences and the University in late October, and he will address students, faculty, and staff of the Department of English during its Annual Awards and Recognition.


Department of English
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Western Michigan University
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