Second President of Luther College (1902-1921)
Christian Keyser (C. K.) Preus, the second president of Luther College, was born on October 13, 1852 in the Spring Prairie parsonage of Wisconsin to Herman Amberg Preus and Caroline (Linka) Keyser Preus. He had connections with the Norwegian Synod from childhood through his father’s involvement with the church.
Preus entered Luther College as a student in 1865, but typhoid fever forced him to temporarily withdraw. He resumed his studies in 1868 and graduated from Luther College in 1873. He had been on Luther's first baseball team in 1872.
He later graduated from Concordia Seminary in 1876. He was ordained that year and soon went to Spring Prairie, Wisconsin, to help his father at his congregation. He split his time between Spring Prairie and Our Saviour's Church in Chicago during the span of time between 1893-1895. Even after his father passed away in 1894, Preus continued to work at the Spring Prairie parish until 1897, when his own health faltered.
Preus married Louise Augusta Hjort in 1877. Her father was Ove Jakob Hjort, a pioneer pastor like Preus's own father.
Preus moved to Decorah in the summer of 1897 and moved into "Sunnyside" house. In 1898 Preus accepted a teaching job in the preparatory department at Luther College, where he was an instructor in both religion and Norwegian.
Even after assuming the presidency of Luther in 1902, he continued to teach Latin, Norwegian, and religion. The changes to the curriculum and campus under Preus were momentous. In 1915, the college was accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, and tuition was charged for the first time: twenty dollars per semester for the college department. Hebrew was dropped as a required course in 1919 and the curriculum revised to allow more electives and “majors.” The physical campus also changed. The gymnasium tripled in size with the addition of an auditorium in 1903. Larsen Hall was built in 1907 providing dormitory, office, and classroom space. In 1909-1910, Jens Jensen, a prominent landscape architect, suggested new landscape designs for the campus and in 1921 the cornerstone was laid for the Koren Hall Library and Museum.
D uring the Preus presidency Luther also celebrated its 50th anniversary, survived World War I, participated in the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, sent its Concert Band to Europe in 1914, and expanded the faculty and student enrollment. While overseeing many administrative aspects of the college, Preus was also active in the Norwegian Synod which later evolved into the Norwegian Church in America.
During Preus's presidency, the relationship between Luther College and the Norwegian Synod shifted. In 1917, the uniting of the various synods to form the Norwegian Lutheran Evangelical Lutheran Church of America meant that was no longer the main school supported by the church. Now it "became one of two colleges (the other being St. Olaf) to which the church was fully committed; and it was not many years before it found it was one of four, eventually five colleges, which laid claim to the church's support" (Nelson 169-170). Luther soon learned that the attention and funds were moving towards the other few sponsored schools rather than just themselves. The need to become more self-sufficient was evident.
Preus was a leader in other respects as well. He was a charter member and the first Iowa District president of the Choral Union of the Synod, which was organized in 1903. In addition, he was was vice-president of the Norwegian Synod since 1911, vice-president of the Iowa District of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America since 1917, president of the Winneshiek County Old Settlers' Association in 1913, and the first president of the Educational Association of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. (Christian Keyser Preus 142-143)
C. K. Preus died on May 28, 1921.