Henry H. Ness Scholarship
When President Castleberry met with Ness family members in his office on August 28, he was surprised by some of what he learned about NU’s founder, Dr. Henry H. Ness. But he was astounded by a generous gift he did not expect.
Paul Peterson, Jr. arrived with his mother, Myrtis Peterson, carrying a large, brown photo album. The day was to be a celebration—a thank-you from President Castleberry and the administration for a $50,000 financial gift the Peterson family had recently made on behalf of Myrtis’ father, Henry H. Ness.
Paul opened the album, and the story of one man’s impact upon the world began to unfold.
Henry Ness was born in Norway and lived in the same neighborhood where the royal palace was located. As a child, he became playmates with a member of that palace—a boy named Olav. In time, that boy would take the throne as King Olav V. Their friendship lasted a lifetime, with Henry Ness becoming the King of Norway’s special advisor.
Henry left Norway at 17 “to get away from my mother’s prayers,” as he told others. He came to America and was eventually hired by John D. Rockefeller’s company, Standard Oil. Because of his exceptional business skills, Henry soon became top salesman at Standard, one of the largest oil companies in the world.
And yet, despite this tremendous success, his life felt incomplete. His mother’s prayers had finally caught up with him. Henry and his wife surrendered their lives to Jesus, and the successful businessman sensed a new calling on his life: ministry. The young man wasted no time.
His first church in Brainerd, Minnesota, was small, but it was a new beginning. Later, Henry planted a new church in Fargo, North Dakota. Like almost everything he touched, this endeavor became hugely successful. So why would he leave this church to pastor another in Seattle? Only God knew the answer to that question.
Henry arrived in Seattle as the new pastor at Hollywood Temple and quickly set out to create the Northwest Bible Institute. It opened on October 1, 1934, and would one day become Northwest University, with thousands of graduates serving Christ as missionaries, ministers, business people, nurses, teachers, lawyers, and countless other roles around the world.
During his time at Northwest Bible Institute, Henry traveled to Europe, where he had a private audience with Pope Pius XII. At the time, Pentecostal Christians in Italy and Spain were being persecuted for their beliefs, and Henry advocated passionately and effectively for their religious freedom.
Henry Ness left Northwest Bible Institute in 1949 when Governor Arthur B. Langlie asked him to become the Chairman of Prison Terms and Paroles during a time of crisis. He served as chairman for four years and eventually returned to ministry, pastoring churches in Washington and California. Dr. Ness was awarded honorary doctorates from three different universities, including the University of Washington.
When Paul Peterson, Jr. closed the album, the room was filled with pride. It was clear to all in attendance that Henry Ness was a man of significant influence. His life had left a considerable impression upon the world. President Castleberry summed it up best: “Dr. Ness may not have had a formal education, but he was a brilliant man who succeeded wherever he was placed and had audiences with kings and popes.”
But the celebration was not over. Paul reached into his pocket and presented President Castleberry with another gift of $50,000, doubling his family’s original donation. In that moment, the Henry H. Ness Scholarship endowment was born, promising to bless a new generation of NU students preparing for vocational ministry.
And the impact of one man from Norway continues.