A Long Day’s Journey
into Knighthood

Class of ’66 | When Olaf Halvorssen W’66 WG’68 approached the royal palace in Oslo this past February, he told his driver to take him to the entrance archway. Two young Norwegian guardsmen halted his car, as he knew they would, and asked him why he was there.

At that point he spoke the words he had always wanted to say: I have come to see the king.

Some background: Before he came to Penn more than four decades ago, Halvorssen himself had been a guardsman for King Olav V, the father of the current King Harald V, a fact he thought worth mentioning to one of the current guards. (“Young man,” he said, “I used to stand where you stand many, many years ago.”)

Now Halvorssen, a Venezuelan-born Norwegian national who makes his home in Miami, had returned to his ancestral homeland to receive the nation’s highest honor: that of Knight Commander, or, to be more precise, Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit. (He was following in the footsteps of his own father, Oiestein, whom he describes as a “hero of the Second World War,” and his older brother, Stein, both of whom were knighted by King Olav V.) The honorific comes “in recognition of his social and humanitarian work in North and South America, his fundraising work to fight alcohol and drug addiction as well as his contribution to develop advanced technology for authentification of products and protection against swindle and fraud,” in the words of Svein Holst Andreassen, the Norwegian Consul General in Houston.

The humanitarian work centers around Halvorssen’s just-ended stint as president of Venezuela Without Limits, a nonprofit organization that provides food, shelter, clothing, and medicine for that nation’s homeless children, though he also regularly visits hospital sickbays in the U.S. On the professional side, he is president of Authentix, an international nano-technology firm that “tags” gasoline and other products with a “DNA-type molecule additive” that ensures the products’ integrity.

Being knighted was an “incredible experience,” says Halvorssen. “To return to receive this honor from such a revered man, with all the protocol, the tradition, the roots … It was mind-boggling.”

When he met the king, he recalls, “I didn’t know whether to hug him or shake his hand. We talked for an hour and a half of what was going on in the world.” After that he went to a “tremendous reception,” and finally made his way through the minus-15-degree cold back to his hotel room.

Among the many congratulations he has received—from Penn President Amy Gutmann and outgoing Wharton Dean Patrick Harker CE’81 GCE’81 G’83 Gr’83 to former Penn classmates and others—was a phone call from an old girlfriend. Halvorssen, having just finished raving about his wife and family, explains in an impish tone: “She said she was wearing the Norwegian sweater I had given her at Penn.” —S.H.

Profiles : Events :
Notes : Obituaries

Atlanta’s civic savior Shirley Franklin G’69 Hon’07
Philadelphia’s (likely) next mayor Michael Nutter W’79
Supreme putter Brad Lebo C’83 D’90
Success secret-sharer Bill Boggs C’62 ASC’64
Pulitzer Prize-winner Steve Stecklow C’76
Norwegian knight Olaf Halvorssen W’66 WG’68

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©2007 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 06/28/07