Johannes Wilhelm (J. Wilhelm) Ylvisaker, the fifth president of Luther College, was born on April 18, 1900 in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, to Johannes Th. Ylvisaker. He attended Luther College and graduated in 1921. He studied three years at Luther Theological Seminary, completing an M.Th. at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1926. In 1930, he married Lucille Torgerson of McFarland, Wisconsin. They had two children. He served as the pastor of Northwood, Iowa, and of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which made him "one of 14 members of the two branches of the Ylvisaker family to serve as pastors and missionaries in the Lutheran Church in this country" (David T. Nelson, p 303).
Ylvisaker became president of Luther College on June 10, 1948. Ylvisaker’s presidency from 1948 to 1962 was marked by growth and development in almost every aspect of the college. Six major buildings were completed, attendance skyrocketed, the endowment grew, and a development plan was created and implemented for the first time. While many changes took place over his fourteen years in office, Ylvisaker tried to work within the traditions of the school to maintain the stability established by his predecessor, Ove J. H. Preus. In addition to being president of the college, he was also "president of the Association of Iowa College Presidents, of the Iowa College Foundation 1953-55, and of the National Lutheran Educational Conference in 1959" (Nelson 304). His patience, intelligence, and wit were assets to his office and college. J.W. Ylvisaker resigned in 1962 after developing Parkinson’s Disease and passed away in 1981.