“The big thing with mom and dad has always been looking towards what is good for the Yukon. He’s made a very good living being a businessman in the Yukon but his goal wasn’t just to be in business in the Yukon, it was what he could contribute to make the Yukon a better place.” Maureen (Hougen) Nielsen, 2006
Over the past quarter century, Rolf and the Hougen organization have been recognized for achievements in business, volunteerism, philanthropy, and community service. Their awards and honours received over the years are many. The Hougen Group has never been just about business. Giving back to the community in which they live and raise their families has always been the foundation for everything else.
Hougen’s community giving has great reach, through many veins of Yukon life—past and present. Without succumbing to list making, we can focus on a couple of areas particularly close to Rolf’s heart. Aside from bringing business to the Yukon, Rolf has always been passionate about contributing to a thriving arts community and about preserving the unique heritage of Yukon.
Arts Underground occupies a 4500-square-foot space on the lower level of the Hougen Centre, an area previously occupied by retail space and offices. In 2004, Rolf and Marg donated the space to the Yukon arts community, donating the cost of utilities as well as $80,000 for renovations. In May 2008, this support was extended with a donation worth a million dollars, to cover the cost of rent, utilities and other operating expenses for ten years. A stair lift was also installed to open access to those with mobility issues.
Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous
Involved from its earliest inception as the Whitehorse Winter Carnival from 1945–50, Rolf lobbied fellow community-minded people in 1961 to reinstate the event. The first Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous took place in February 1962. Long before Whitehorse achieved the thriving arts scene it has today, Rendezvous was the great social event of the winter. Rolf and Hougen’s Ltd. continued to be major supporters over the years and remain a major sponsor even today, as the festival gets set to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Preserving Yukon Heritage through Photography
Rolf’s personal passion for photography led him to document not only his own family and pastimes, but also major events in his community throughout the past half-century. Over the years, Rolf has personally transferred tens of thousands of photos to the Yukon archives. In 2003, the Yukon Archives declared he and Marg honorary members of the Friends of the Yukon Archives Society in light of their generous donations, including a priceless Hamacher collection which he bought and restored and eventually digitized for use by history buffs the world round.
In the late 70’s, after realizing there was no organization in Yukon that could accept the proceeds of an estate for the benefit of the territory, Rolf took the lead in establishing the Yukon Foundation. For more than 30 years the Yukon Foundation has supported Yukoners with countless scholarships and funded a host of projects to assist in heritage, culture, beautification and scientific research.