Luther President Richard Torgerson to end tenure in 2013

Feb. 21, 2012

President Richard Torgerson has announced that he will end his tenure as president of the college in the summer of 2013.

President Torgerson and his wife Judy joined the Luther community in July 1999 and have been at the forefront of a decade of progress that has strengthened the institution academically and financially, maintained enrollment of outstanding students, reshaped the campus to a landscape both beautiful and utilitarian, and assembled an exceptional faculty and staff.

Under President Torgerson's leadership, Luther has gained recognition as one of the nation's top 100 liberal arts colleges, prepared to meet the challenges facing higher education in the decades ahead.    

"In the summer of 2013 Judy and I will complete 14 amazingly wonderful years at Luther College," President Torgerson said. "This time brings us to the end of an eight-year term, the end of the college's Sesquicentennial Celebration, the fulfillment of the Sesquicentennial Fund goals, and the culmination of the current five-year strategic plan.

"All of this makes it a good time for us to transition to the next phase of our vocational journey," he said. "We do not know where our journey might lead us, but we have great faith that once again we will be called to serve where our passions and gifts can fulfill a need."

Paula Meyer, Chair of the Luther College Board of Regents, expressed the appreciation of the board for the work and commitment the President and Mrs. Torgerson have invested in the College.

“Luther College has been blessed with the right leaders at each stage of its 151-year history and the Torgersons are certainly the most recent example of this," said Meyer. "Rick Torgerson has delivered impressive results during his 14-year Presidential tenure leaving Luther College a significantly stronger institution as a result of his service. 

"Both Rick and Judy have devoted their lives to the college and board members, faculty, staff and students have been both inspired and motivated by their passion," she said.

President's Torgerson's accomplishments include the addition of three major facilities on campus -- Sampson Hoffland Laboratories, The Center for the Arts, and the completion of The Legends Fitness Center. Major additions and renovations to facilities included Valders Science Hall, Dahl Centennial Union, Jenson-Noble Music Hall, Loyalty Hall, and all student residence halls on campus. 

The central campus green areas and roadways were reconfigured and the Bentdahl Commons constructed, enhancing Luther's standing as one of the most beautiful campus environments in the nation.

President Torgerson shaped and directed two transformational strategic plans to advance Luther into the new century of higher education, and he will have led Luther's Development team to the completion of three major campaigns for scholarships, facilities and other educational needs: Leadership for a New Century that raised $63.5 million; the Higher Calling Campaign that raised $93.3 million, and the Sesquicentennial Fund that is raising $50 million.  

These funding initiatives have added more than $55 million to the college's endowment.

A hallmark of President Torgerson's tenure has been Luther's national leadership role in environmental sustainability for college campuses. He was a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in 2007 and has championed Luther's engagement with the ACUPCC goal of initiatives that "neutralize greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the research and educational efforts of higher education to equip society to re-stabilize the earth's climate."

The recent erection of a wind turbine that generates a third of Luther's electrical power is the most visible symbol of that commitment, but the college has planned, developed and enacted hundreds of sustainability initiatives in its drive to reduce its carbon footprint by 50 percent.

President Torgerson's leadership in higher education, especially among the nation's top liberal arts institutions, has lifted the college's stature and contributed to an invitation in 2009 to join the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, an organization of the region's most prestigious liberal arts colleges and universities.

His service to higher education beyond the Luther campus includes chair of the Lutheran Educational Conference of North America for one year and member of its executive committee three years, member of the academic program working group for the American College and University President's Climate Commitment, consultant and evaluator for the North Central Association's Higher Learning Commission, member of the NCAA Division III President's Council five years, chair of the President's Council of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference two years, chair for two years and member of the board of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, member of the board of Minnesota Public Radio three years, and member of the board of the Bioscience Alliance of Iowa.

President Torgerson said that as his companion and inspiration, his wife Judy has been invaluable in developing and stewarding friendships and relationships, while also serving as an administrative assistant at Luther's Center for Global Learning. 

"Judy has assisted hundreds of students in their preparation for J-Term experiences around the world," President Torgerson said. "But her affection and advocacy for students extends far beyond the workplace, including her enthusiastic and loyal attendance at hundreds of concerts, lectures, athletic events and music recitals.

"Judy and I have enjoyed these opportunities to show our support and appreciation for student talent and achievement," President Torgerson said.

Respected and beloved by the campus community, alumni, parents and friends of the college, Mrs. Torgerson has been called the "ideal partner" for President Torgerson, known for her gracious and warm hospitality.

"As host or participant at hundreds of Luther events, Judy has contributed immeasurably to our campus team-building and community partnerships that are essential to the success of the college," President Torgerson said. "Without her as my partner, I could not possibly have helped Luther achieve its goals during our time here."

President Torgerson said serving at Luther has been an honor and the fulfillment of his calling as an education leader.  

"Over our working lifetime, serving five different colleges, 14 years is the longest Judy and I have stayed in any one place," said President Torgerson. "To be able to live in Decorah and serve Luther College has made these years very special and rewarding.  

"We have been enriched beyond our imagination by this opportunity to serve Luther," he said.  "We have been blessed and supported in so many ways by so many people. We will leave with memories that we will always carry with us and we will never find the words or actions to adequately express our thanks for the support and encouragement we have received from regents, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of Luther over the years.

"The Luther community has made this journey one of joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment," he said. "I especially want to express my appreciation to the leadership team at Luther that has contributed so much to the success and achievements we have realized over these years. Leaders can only be successful when they surround themselves with strong and capable colleagues."

Regent Chair Meyer said Luther is in excellent position as the board addresses this period of presidential change.

“Luther is well-positioned as we tackle this leadership transition," she said. "Together with his team, President Torgerson has built a solid foundation for Luther. 

"The college is fiscally strong, facilities are in peak condition and student enrollment has remained relatively steady in an environment that is challenging for many private liberal arts institutions. 

"I am pleased that we enter this transition from a position of strength," she said. "This is perhaps Rick’s ultimate achievement, and a final gift, to the Luther community. He has not only provided incredible leadership over the past 14 years, he has also prepared Luther to meet the challenges of the years ahead."

President Rick and Mrs. Judy Torgerson