Former Stillwater Prison Officer Earns PhD in 'Santa-ology'

Updated: 12/09/2013 1:53 PM By: Megan Stewart

Photo: Photo provided by Chuck Clausen

Chuck Clausen has a busy month coming up.

Clausen is a full-time Santa Claus and the owner of Santa Clausens. He has been playing the Santa role since 1970, but this year he's added a new notch on his belt: a doctorate from the International University of Santa Claus.

To kick off December, he will ride on a float Monday night with the Oakdale Fire Department, despite the sub-zero temperatures.

"That won't be a problem," Clausen, of Oakdale, said. "When I see the kids, I warm right up."

Children hold a special place in Clausen's heart. The grandfather of three is a former Stillwater Prison corrections officer. He said he is always touched by their innocence.

"Children are naturally innocent and loving," Clausen said. "With children, they have such tender hearts. You have to listen to them and spend time with them."

Clausen is especially good at this after using the same approach with inmates for 27 years.

"Everyone has needs and everyone needs to be listened to," Clausen said. "Many times we're trying to tell people the solution when they already know the solution. Sometimes they just want to talk."

Clausen is the only person to have been allowed into the prison in a red Santa suit.

It hasn't been a easy road to achieve this acclaimed education level. He first had to earn his bachelors, which he did in 2002. The B.A. courses included a cruise to Alaska and a trip through its wilderness to the 'North Pole.' Clausen originally earned a B.A. in teaching from Winona State University.

Moreover, he spent a good part of the 1990s trying to dye his beard white.

"Every beautician I went to turned me down," Clausen said. He finally met Alice Walker from the Golden Mirror who agreed to try bleaching his classic Santa beard.

"You do get a little red glow after you get it done," Clausen said.

Clausen is now visiting the children of children he used to entertain. His wife, Julie, holds a Mrs. Claus masters degree and goes with him to events.

"Sometimes the kids don't want to sit on Santa's lap," Clausen said. "They warm right up to Mrs. Clause though."

When asked if she will join him at the doctorate level, he said it was unlikely.

"She just likes baking cookies."

The Clausens have two sons and three grandchildren, aged 1,2 and 3. Somehow in all the craziness of Christmas and his in-demand schedule, Clausen has been able to spend the holiday with his own family every year.

"I do have to take that big trip, you know."