Once a Bee, Always a Bee: Thea Engelson


After eight and a half years of service, Thea Engelson became a signature member of the Ambrose community. So, everyone was saddened when her final semester at Ambrose came to an end, and she left SAU for retirement.

Beloved by her theatre and music students, she was and still is a very talented pianist, voice teacher and choral director. Over her years at Ambrose, she taught private voice lessons, directed the SAU vocal jazz ensemble STAMVOJA and music directed many theatrical productions.

Engelson can now be found in the woodlands of Minnesota where she and her husband, Rob, fill their days mostly by doing yard work. They built their new home in the forest, so there is plenty of work to be done, including weeding the lawn, hauling rocks and picking up brush. She also has a lot of family very close by, including her brother, whom she visits almost every day!

"I also get to see our son and his wife frequently as they live in the Twin Cities. I have been known to show up at brew pubs where their group of friends regularly meet," Engelson said.

She still sets aside time every day to play the piano.

"It is really nice being able to sit down and play for myself - and not in preparation for some gig," she said.

Since her retirement, she has played through almost all of Mozart's Sonatas, and she's currently working her way through Schumann, Chopin and Tchaikovsky.

Engelson accomplished many things over her years at Ambrose, and said that one of her biggest challenges was the SAU production of Parade.

"That experience was unlike any I have had in theatre. Creating a link between the Music Department and the Theatre Department was important," she said.

When asked about what she missed the most after leaving, she said, "The people! The Theatre Department [students and faculty] will always hold a special place in my heart. There is a bond that develops when everyone works together on a work of art, and I feel securely tethered to you folk!"

Engelson has never been known to be short of wise words. When asked what she would not miss, she said, "I always felt the arts needed to constantly justify their existence. I hope someday that St. Ambrose figures out the intrinsic value of the arts."

She feels the arts hold a special place on any campus. In contrast to sports and athletics, which always pose an adversary to face, or in her words, a "combat, if you will, with the other team," the only goal in the arts is to better oneself and to build each other up instead of battle for victory.

"The battle for us is within us - to grow, to improve, to open ourselves to new experiences and to be brave enough to bear our souls as expressed in our artistic medium," Engelson said.

Thea Engelson was an absolute treasure to St. Ambrose. Talented and wise, she had a great impact on so many students and faculty. The St. Ambrose community is forever grateful for her years of contribution and service.

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