Luther College President Paula Carlson announces retirement

Paula J. Carlson, the 10th president of Luther College, has communicated to the Board of Regents her decision to retire from Luther College effective at the end of the 2018-19 academic year. As a result, the Board of Regents will initiate a search process in the coming months to identify President Carlson's successor to begin serving Luther in the summer of 2019.

During her time at Luther, President Carlson's accomplishments include:


  • Establishment and implementation of the Priorities 2016-18 plan;
  • Addition of new, interdisciplinary academic programs, including data science, neuroscience, visual communication and musical theatre;
  • Enhanced and expanded Career Center services;
  • Renewed outdoor athletic facilities, including the baseball and softball stadiums, tennis courts and football field, while completing plans to renovate the indoor facilities in the Regents Center;
  • Development and launch of "Next Steps for Sophomores," an innovative curricular and co-curricular program focusing on the sophomore experience;
  • Addition of the Dean for Institutional Equity and Inclusion to lead the development of institutional strategies for diversity and inclusion;
  • Achievement of Luther's goal to reduce the college's carbon footprint by 50 percent by the end of 2015;
  • The 2017 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, honoring the college's namesake, Martin Luther, and engaging thousands of people who attended conferences, lectures, concerts and art exhibits on campus.

Carlson also presided over the development of the comprehensive strategic plan, "Inspired. Empowered. Engaged." approved by the Board of Regents in February 2018. Described as bold, this strategic plan confronts the realities of the challenging environment in higher education with a vision for innovative new programs to build upon the strong history of Luther College and position the college for a strong, sustainable future.

"It has been my privilege to serve as Luther's 10th president.  The Luther College community is very special," said Carlson. "I am honored each day to work with students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the college who inspire me with their passion, creativity and commitment to use their talents to better our community and the world.  I am pleased and proud to work with the Luther community to launch innovative new programs, to enhance the strengths of the college, and to build a strong foundation for the future."

During the 2018-19 academic year, Carlson will work with the Board of Regents and the College to begin implementation of the strategic plan. "In the coming year we will launch the strategic plan’s key, first-year initiatives as the presidential search is conducted. The timing of the transition will assure a strong foundation and momentum for the new president to lead the College in achieving the plan's long-term goals," she said.

President Carlson began her duties as Luther's 10th president in July 2014. She is a 1976 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of St. Olaf College and holds a master's degree, a Master of Philosophy and a Doctor of Philosophy in English and comparative literature from Columbia University. Carlson taught at the University of Dubuque, Yale University and St. Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana.

Prior to becoming Luther's president, Carlson served as vice president for mission at St. Olaf College. She previously served as director of the Wendt Center for Character Education and associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Dubuque.

"We thank Dr. Carlson for her leadership during the past four years of her presidency at Luther College,” said Board Chair Wendy Davidson, a 1992 Luther graduate. "The work she and the campus community have undertaken in the areas of financial development, student life and creation of the strategic plan has positioned the college with a framework to enhance the Luther brand and establish a strong foundation for our future. We look forward to working with Dr. Carlson and the campus to begin execution of the strategic initiatives while we embark on the search for the college's next president."

Details of the search process to name President Carlson's successor will be announced in the near future.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,050, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: http://www.luther.edu.