Book about Finlandia University history released

HANCOCK – Two years ago this month, Robert and Ruth Nara started talking with officials at Finlandia University about creating a book to highlight the history of Finlandia University from its beginning in 1896, and that book has been completed in time for FinnFest USA 2013.

Robert Nara said he and Ruth got into the project partly because of his grandfather John W. Nara, who photographed much of the Copper Country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of his photographs are at Finlandia and Michigan Technological University.

“We’ve been involved with (the Tech and Finlandia) archives for many years,” he said. “It led to our offer to … produce a history book (about Finlandia University and its predecessor Suomi College).”

What was created was 1,000 copies of a 256-page softcover book in horizontal format, which includes photographs and text.

The Naras, who are involved with various philanthropic activities in the Hancock and Houghton area, funded the production of the book.

“We told everybody along the way we wanted this to be top-notch,” Robert Nara said.

The book is titled “Picturing the Past: Finlandia University: 1896 to the Present.” The softcover version sells for $20 and currently is available at the North Wind Books at Finlandia, but it is expected to be available at other local retailers soon. A hardcover version of the book will be available for $30 later this year.

The final text for the book was written and edited by Karen Johnson, Finlandia’s director of communications, who said an early draft was written by part-time Lake Linden resident and former school teacher, Deborah Frontiera.

“I wrote the book from the draft,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the information and many of the photographs for the book came from Suomi College yearbooks, the former student newspaper, Inklings, and compiled writings of former Suomi President Ralph Jalkanen.

“I used a lot of that,” she said of Jalkanen’s writings.

Johnson said she also used information from a book called, “The History of Finns in Michigan” by Armas Holmio.

Picturing the Past is not text-heavy, however, Johnson said.

“The book is very photo-intensive,” she said.

Most of the pictures came from the Finnish American History Archives at Finlandia.

Johnson said it’s expected 1,000 copies of the hardcover version of the book will be available locally by mid or late July.

It was time to do a publication like “Picturing the Past,” Johnson said.

“A full history of the college and university hasn’t been done for many decades,” she said.

Ruth Nara said the creation of the book was very enjoyable for her and Robert.

“This has been an unbelievable project for us,” she said.