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Albert  R. Sellen
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Obituary for Albert R. Sellen

Albert R. Sellen, 93, formerly of Lawrence, Kansas, and Sioux City, Iowa, died July 12, 2018, under hospice care at Legacy Pointe Senior Living in Iowa City. A family memorial service will be held at a later date. In keeping with his life-long dedication to learning and knowledge, Al donated his body to The University of Iowa Deeded Body Program.

Al was born on April 10, 1925 in Rhode Island, but grew up in Topeka, Kansas. He was the second of three sons born to Grace Walker Sellen and Arthur G. Sellen, dean of Washburn University. Al graduated from Topeka High School with First Honors. Serving in the Yankee Division of the U.S. Army during World War II, he was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge and awarded a Purple Heart and a Silver Star. He returned to Topeka and attended Washburn, where he majored in history and graduated summa cum laude in 1949. He subsequently earned Master’s and PhD degrees in history from the University of Chicago.

Al married Jane Bright in June 1947, and together they raised a family of four, two daughters and two sons. Early in their marriage, Jane talked about having six children. Speaking to practical limitations, and with a knowing sense of humor, Al responded that the “right” number of children would be four, “because a family of six will fit in one automobile.” During the kids’ growing-up years, the family of six traveled extensively most summers by car, often camping in a green Sears canvas tent.

Albert taught at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota, for two years before moving to Sioux City, Iowa. There he taught at Morningside College for 34 years, chairing the Department of History & Political Science during much of that time. His teaching specialties included courses on American history, Russian/Soviet history, the American Civil War, and 20th-century U.S. foreign relations. He also directed the interdepartmental honors program for ten years and served as faculty representative to the board of directors.

While living in Sioux City, Al was elected President of First Congregational Church, coordinated judging for History Day in northwest Iowa, was active in the Sioux City United Nations Association, and served as a Democratic Party precinct captain for many years.

Al and Jane retired to Lawrence, Kansas, in 1990. In Lawrence, Al served as Historian at Plymouth Congregational Church, and was elected President of the Endacott Society of University of Kansas retirees, where he was particularly involved with that group’s opera study group. He was also active with Lawrence Habitat for Humanity and with Westerners International. The couple moved to Iowa City in 2014 to be closer to family.

During their 68 years of marriage, Al and Jane traveled widely, visiting all 50 states and journeying to Europe on twelve occasions, including two sabbaticals from Morningside College to visit and study European historical sites and museums. They also traveled across much of Canada and to Australia and New Zealand.

Al and Jane became engaged in Estes Park, Colorado, in 1946, and returned there frequently over the ensuing seven decades, as a couple and with their children and extended family. Al was particularly interested in mountains, read widely about climbing expeditions around the world, and over the years hiked extensively throughout Rocky Mountain National Park.

Al is survived by his four children and their spouses: Jan Sellen McGrane (Michael), Durham, NC; Peg Sellen Dana (Rolland Guild), Coralville, IA; John Sellen (Mary Sue Lobenstein), Minneapolis, MN; Eric Albert Sellen (Ron Seidman), Phoenix, AZ. Other survivors include: two grandsons, Paul McGrane, Durham, NC, and Brian McGrane (Zoë Alexandra), Edmonds, WA; sister-in-law Elsie Sellen, Fort Scott, KS; and three nieces and a nephew. He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife Jane, his brothers William and Robert, and his sister-in-law Donna.

The family suggests that memorials be made to Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence, KS, or to the Des Moines Metro Opera.


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