Senior Letter

Fall 2015

Dear Parents of Luther Senior Students,

Hello from your Parents Council; it’s hard to believe we’re seniors already! We hope you enjoyed a great Family Weekend in September. Our fall Parents Council meeting began with a warm welcome from Sue Drilling ’78, director of special programs, and a quote from Ann Sponberg Peterson, director of development-principal gifts: “Luther College is a college that says, yes!” Throughout the morning we heard how faculty, staff, and friends of Luther College say “yes!” to educating the mind, body, and spirit of the students who attend Luther. Here are some of the highlights from the meeting:

President Paula Carlson, in her second year as president of the college, greeted each of the 655 new students to Luther at a Sunday reception. Along with the new students on campus, there are a number of new faculty. Dr. Carlson met with many of these faculty when they interviewed for their positions, and she said they all spoke of being drawn to Luther because it’s a residential, liberal arts college affiliated with the church and committed to the education of the whole person: mind, body, and spirit. And what is Luther doing to keep tabs on students after they graduate?  In a recent survey sent during a 6-12 month period following graduation, 97-99 percent of graduates were employed or pursing additional education. The information-gathering rate is an impressive 92-95 percent of those surveyed. Dr. Carlson had assigned homework to us in the form of the following question, “What is your hope for your child’s experience at Luther?”  Responses from parents included engagement in the world, developing a sense of curiosity, identifying strengths, sharpening critical thinking skills, and taking risks.

Scot Schaeffer, vice president for enrollment management, reported an increase in new-student enrollment from 599 students in 2014 to 655 students in 2015. The average ACT score for new students was 26, there were 21 valedictorians, and 4 were National Merit Finalists. There has been an increase in the diversity of the student body with Hispanic and African-American students comprising the top two categories, respectively, and there are 150 international students on campus from 65 countries. A question was asked about the retention rate of students at Luther.  Dr. Carlson said the retention/graduation rate at Luther based on the industry gold standard of a 6-year graduation rate is 77-82 percent, while the national average is around 50 percent. 

In her presentation “From Classes to Careers” Brenda Ranum, director of the Career Center, described how the transition from college to work is different for today’s students than it was for us when we were applying for jobs after college. Employers today are looking for students with experience, diversity, transferable skills and competencies, knowledge of the company, with little or no on-the-job training. Luther is meeting these expectations through activities that will enhance skills necessary for success and engage students and alumni, parents, and friends in programs that foster networking for career opportunities.

The Development Office team of Maria Smith ’95, Kate Duffert ’11, and Ann Sponberg Peterson gave an overview of giving at Luther. Annual Fund giving—unrestricted gifts for operation support—adds up to $1.85 million each year from 9,000 alumni, parents, and friends. There is also a Luther student philanthropy council (SPC) that works to keep students connected to Luther and each other and stresses the importance of philanthropy. The 2014 student-led phonathon raised $264,000! Luther’s recent funding initiative “Sustaining the Mission” (1/1/2013-12/31/2015) has reached its $30,000,000 goal. Luther’s endowment is at $147,000,000 and there has been consistent growth. Fifty-eight percent of the permanent endowment is restricted for student scholarships. 

To reiterate a message from the Development Office, all gifts matter, and we ask that you consider making a gift to Luther College. Gifts from Luther parents—current and former—have resulted in $2,900,000 for the college in fiscal year 2015. Whatever the amount, your gift will be put to work right away where it is needed most. 

Following the Parents Council meeting, the college hosted a Panel for Parents session. Panel presenters were Brenda Ranum; Nancy Barry, professor of English and assistant to the dean for advising; Lisa Rogers ’15, Center for Global Learning intern; and Kris Franzen, assistant dean for student life and director of residence life.  One important thing to note from the panel presentation about residence hall living is that students are required to live on campus all 4 years, with certain exceptions. Students are strongly advised to refrain from signing leases with potential landlords until after receiving approval. That said, Kris Franzen said studies have shown that both retention rates and student satisfaction are higher for students who live in residence halls.

We’ll write again in the spring; let us know if you have questions. Be sure to check Luther’s commencement web pages sometime after spring 2016 semester begins: for commencement details.

Dates to Remember

Nov. 25-29    Thanksgiving vacation                
Dec. 3-6        Christmas at Luther                                
Dec. 14-17     Final exams                                           

Jan. 4-27        January Term
Feb. 4             Spring semester begins
March 19-28    Spring/Easter vacation
May 16-19       Final exams      
May 22            Commencement


Linda (Larson) ’84 and Todd Kluge
(715) 386-1166

Jon ’85 and Sandee (Neitzel) Joppa ’87
(763) 557-9752                                      

Alan Hecht ’80 and Kristin Swanson ’80
(608) 781-7773

Brad and Laura Nielsen
(402) 593-7435

Phil and Kathy Pielage                     
(608) 845-3396                                                                            

Jill (Voss) Wachholz ’89
(630) 629-0844


“There are but two lasting bequests we can give our children.  One is roots, the other, wings.”

Roots and Wings—how often we think about these gifts as we guide and nurture our children through those first years. As parents, we have a special mission.

The roots are planted as we help them establish a firm foundation for life, a definition of who they are and where they came from, the security of family and a sense of community.

The wings emerge as we gradually let them go, allowing them the freedom to fly—to take what they have learned and soar to new heights, to reach beyond existing boundaries, to seek and find their place in this world.

You should have a sense of pride. Under your watchful eye, your child has grown into a young adult with dreams and unlimited potential for the future. And now, you are allowing those dreams to live, by encouraging the opportunity for new growth at Luther College, an institution with deep roots and caring people to assist students as they pursue their dreams and realize their potential.

Please give your child “roots and wings.” Support the Annual Fund through the Luther College Parents Association and enhance learning opportunities for all Luther students.