Chester Alvin Ronning was born in China in 1894, the second of
seven children. His parents were Lutheran missionaries in China,
serving there 11 years.
In 1899, the Ronning family left China and traveled and lived in
Norway and Iowa, after which they traveled through Canada on their
way back to China. It was during this time in Alberta where they
met a group of Norwegian settlers who had taken homesteads at a
place called Bardo, near Camrose. The Ronning's had purchased land
in the district and returned from China to that homestead six
After living at Bardo for 5 years the family moved to the Peace
River country. Chester Ronning attended university and graduated
from the University of Alberta in 1916 with a bachelor's degree in
education. During this time, Chester met Inga Horte whom he
married in 1918.
In 1921, Chester Ronning, Inga and their daughter Sylvia moved to
China, where he had accepted a position as principal of a
teacher's school in the city of his birth, Fracheng. Six years
later, in 1927, the family again returned to Alberta. Dr. Ronning
accepted the position of principal of Camrose Lutheran College. It
seemed the family would settle in Camrose. The Ronning's built
their home a few blocks from the College and raised 6 children,
where Ronning worked and continued his studies. Chester Ronning
also held an interest in the arts, painting, and sculpting, and
also directed several choirs.
With the beginning of World War II, Dr. Ronning became the head of
the discrimination unit of Royal Canadian Air Force Intelligence.
However, his work did not end when the war ended. He was asked to
go to China to help Canada's ambassador to Chungking. Arriving in
China in 1945, Ronning remained there, serving as ambassador until
his departure in 1951.
He became head of the American and Far Eastern Division in the
Department of External Affairs, was then appointed Ambassador to
Norway and Iceland, and in 1956 he was sent to India as High
Commissioner. Dr. Ronning also served as acting head of
delegations to the Geneva Conferences on Korea in 1954, on Laos in
1961 and 1962, and as special envoy to Hanoi and Saigon in 1966,
where he attempted to negotiate an end to the Vietnam War.
Throughout this difficult period, Chester Ronning was able to
assist in creating communication between North America and China.
Chester Ronning has been awarded many honours, including honourary
degrees from the Universities of Alberta, Calgary, Lethbridge,
Waterloo, and Simon Fraser, and St. Olaf's College in Minnesota. A
life member of the Alberta Teachers Association, a school in
Camrose was named for Dr. Ronning, and in India, three places have
commemorated his name. He was the president of the Camrose
Lutheran College from 1927 to 1942. He served in diplomatic posts
in China, India, Norway, and the UN. He was designated an Officer
of the Order of Canada in 1967 and became a Companion of the Order
of Canada in 1972. Dr. Ronning was inducted into the Alberta Order
of Excellence in 1983. Ronning House, his home from 1928 to 1984,
still stands as a site commemorating his dedication to diplomatic
This digital collection was
produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital
Collections initiative, Industry Canada.