With deep sorrow Carleton announces the passing of Eleanor "Ele" Hansen, age 92, on Saturday, July 20 in Northfield. Hired by President Gould in 1952, Ele chaired the Women's Physical Education Department, taught PE classes, and coached women's softball and cross-country for 34 years, until her retirement in 1986. She remained such a strong supporter of Carleton and individual members of the college community that many didn't feel she ever really retired. Ele had a joyful approach to life that was infectious and uplifting.
Hansen is the inspiration for The Ele Hansen Award, which annually recognizes two senior female students who bring to their sport the joy of participation and who have positively influenced others through their example, service, and leadership in the athletic or recreation program.
Together with Pat Lamb, her life partner of 52 years, Ele advocated for women's physical education and other issues with a gentle but firm hand. Because of their work, Carleton was ahead of its time in providing a wide range of PE classes and resources. Ele was a role model for generations of Carleton women students who were encouraged by her to be and become themselves. "The Women's Gym" (Cowling Recreation Center) was built in 1965 through Ele's strong encouragement and became a center of the feminist movement on campus. In addition to being revered by students, Ele was greatly respected by faculty and staff throughout the college.
Jerry Mohrig writes that when he was hired by the department of Chemistry by Dick Ramette, he was told that Chemistry was the second best department on campus. He asked which department was the best, and Dick replied: "Women's Physical Education. Ele Hansen is the Chair."
The Star Tribune paid tribute to Ele in its August 2, 2013 edition.
A Carleton memorial service will be held on Homecoming Weekend, Friday, October 18, at 7 p.m. in the Skinner Memorial Chapel.
Remembrances of Ele may written at the Farewells website:
In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Ele may be sent to the Northfield Senior Center, 1651 Jefferson Pkwy, Northfield, MN 55057.