Summary

Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Branch:
Army 1
Rank:
Major 1
Birth:
28 Jun 1888 2
La Crosse, Wisconsin 1
Death:
02 Oct 1970 1
Oct 1970 2
Portland, OR 1
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Personal Details

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Full Name:
George Albert Selke 1
Full Name:
George Selke 2
Birth:
28 Jun 1888 2
La Crosse, Wisconsin 1
Male 1
Death:
02 Oct 1970 1
Oct 1970 2
Portland, OR 1
Burial:
Willamette National Cemetery Portland OR 1
Residence:
Last Residence: Portland, OR 2
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World War II 1

Branch:
Army 1
Rank:
Major 1
Service Start Date:
1941 1
Service End Date:
1945 1
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Social Security:
Card Issued: Oregon 2
Social Security Number: ***-**-2271 2

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Stories

George Albert Selke

George Selke served in World War II while on leave from St. Cloud State Teacher’s College (now St. Cloud State University) in Minnesota, where he was president from 1927 to 1946. He worked at SHAEF in London, mapping occupation plans for Germany and Austria from 1943 to 1945. Selke then worked with U.S. military governments in Italy and Austria, and served as the culture and education director for Salzburg in 1945. He returned home in 1946 and was made Chancellor of the University of Montana, a post he kept until 1951 when he was called back to Germany. As part of the Allied High Commission for Germany (HICOG), Selke was named Deputy Chief of Education and Cultural Relations Division in 1951. He spent the next two years as Chief of the Division of Cultural Affairs, and was also part of the United States Educational Commission, an educational exchange program between Germany and the U.S. that was outlined under the Fulbright Agreement. Selke and four other Americans, in addition to five German members, were named to the commission.

Selke had attended St. Cloud in 1913, then received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in 1916 and his Master’s degree from Columbia in 1926. From 1924 to 1927 he taught at the University of Minnesota. Selke then spent 19 years at St. Cloud State Teacher’s College. Selke Field, which he dedicated in 1937, was named in his honor upon his retirement. The historic field was built by workers from the WPA and NYA (National Youth Adminstration, of which Selke was the Minnesota director from 1935 to 1939), and was also used as the site of huts built to house veterans and their families who had come to claim their education benefits.

After Selke completed his service with HICOG in 1953, he returned home to Minnesota. He became a legal advisor to Governor Orville Freeman, and followed him to Washington, D.C. when Freeman was named Secretary of Agriculture under the Kennedy administration. In 1962, Selke settled in Portland, where he remained until his death in 1970.

George Selke

 

Born in La Crosse, Wisconsin on June 28, 1888, George Albert Selke was a champion of public education in Minnesota. He taught at multiple rural schools before studying at St. Cloud State Teachers College (today St. Cloud State University) and the University of Minnesota. In the years following World War I, he served as Superintendent of Schools, Director of Elementary and High Schools for the Minnesota State Department of Education, and Director of the Minnesota chapter of the National Youth Administration (NYA) of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). After completing a Master’s degree from Columbia University in 1926, he lectured at the University of Minnesota and St. Cloud State Teacher’s College, where he also served as President. In 1937 the college’s football field was named Selke Field in his honor.

In August 1943 Selke took a leave of absence to join the war effort. Stationed at SHAEF headquarters in London, he helped devise the occupation plans for Germany and Austria before being transferred to the Allied Military Government in Italy and Austria. He was assigned temporary duty with the MFAA in November 1945 as Acting Chief of the Education and Religion Office for Land Salzburg. In this position, he worked alongside Monuments Men Capt. Charles R. Sattgast and Lt. Col. Ernest T. DeWald to facilitate the recovery and return of works of art and other cultural objects looted by the Nazis and stored within the jurisdiction of the United States Forces, Austria (USFA). During his brief service as a Monuments Man, Selke participated in the movement of the Hertziana Library Collection from the Hallein salt mines, the transfer of Polish works of art and books from Schloss Fichhorn to the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, and the removal of a collection of Tibetan artifacts from Schloss Mittersill.

Though he returned to the United State in June 1946 and became Chancellor of the University of Montana, he was called back to Germany in 1951. There, he served as Deputy Chief of the Education and Cultural Relations Division of the Allied High Commission for Germany (HICOG). He was also selected as Chief of the Division of Cultural Affairs. One of only five Americans appointed to the United States Educational Commission, he played an important role in the postwar planning of West Germany’s education system.

After completing his service with HICOG in 1953, Selke returned home to Minnesota and became a legal advisor to Governor Orville Freeman. Selke followed Freeman to Washington, D.C. when the latter was named Secretary of Agriculture in the Kennedy Administration. Selke reportedly refused an invitation from Senator and future Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey to run for Governor of Minnesota, instead choosing an appointment as part-time consultant and advisor to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. He was elected President of the American Association of Teachers Colleges, member of the National Education Association, and member of the National Committee on Colleges and Civil Defense. He authored Rural School Administration and Supervision (1926) and Handbook for County Superintendents of Schools (1935).

George Selke died in Portland, Oregon on October 2, 1970. In October 2003, St. Cloud State University hosted “Salute to Selke,” an outdoor pep rally commemorating his years of devoted service to not only the university but the entire state of Minnesota.

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