It gives me great joy to present the Spirit of Luther Award to the Luther College Woman's Club.
The Spirit of Luther Award recognizes individuals who have provided significant service, sustained over time, to Luther College. The recipients are those who have demonstrated a personal commitment to the College's mission, quality, and character.
The Luther College Woman's Club traces its roots back to the early days of the college. In 1862, after the college moved to Decorah, seven Decorah women organized a group to mend clothing for students. Mrs. Brandt, wife of the campus pastor, began projects to raise money for needy students by selling handcrafted items and communion wafers. In 1926, Clara Olson—the wife of Luther's fourth president, Oscar Olson—started a group that raised funds to furnish the kitchen in the new Preus Gymnasium. They sold aprons, served coffee and donuts at football games, and held afternoon teas, and they were able to purchase an eight-burner range and 30 sets of dishes and silverware for the gymnasium kitchen.
The Luther College Woman's Club was officially founded in December 1932, at the height of the Great Depression. The club held “silver teas” to raise money for the college's 75th Jubilee Fund to fund scholarships for needy students.
The birthday cake tradition started in 1955. Every August, the parents of new Luther students receive a letter introducing the Luther College Woman's Club and the service they provide—baking cakes, cookies and bars for Luther students who are away from home on their birthday or other special occasion. The treats are a taste of home, baked with care by women who welcome students into a second home and family here at Luther. Not only does their service assist parents, but the proceeds are returned to the college in the form of student scholarships.
In a 2011 article in the Luther Alumni Magazine, Woman's Club president Lila (Benson) Christensen '63 said “We think of the baking project as blessings paid forward—from the sender, through the baker, to the pleased recipient, and then finally to the students receiving scholarships from the proceeds of the orders.”
Membership in the Luther College Woman's Club is open to Luther faculty, staff, spouses and members of the Decorah community. The club meets seven times a year; meetings include speakers from the college and the community, refreshments and fellowship. Joining me on stage are the four current officers of the Luther College Woman's Club: President Bonnie Warrington, Vice President Marjorie Wharton, Secretary Marge Iversen, and Treasurer Muriel Lensch. Approximately 400 Decorah-area women are members of the Woman's Club, and many are here with us today. Please stand so we can thank you for your generosity and care for our community.
This is the first time the Spirit of Luther Award has been given to a group, and what a deserving group they are! For more than 80 years, their service to the college has made a difference in students' lives—from birthday treats and Christmas at Luther gift bags to over $305,000 in scholarships that help make a Luther education more affordable for students and families. The Luther College Woman's Club truly exemplifies the “Spirit of Luther.”
On behalf of the students, faculty, and staff, I am honored to present the Spirit of Luther Award to the Luther College Woman's Club. Soli Deo Gloria!
President Paula J. Carlson
Center for Faith and Life, Luther College
February 2, 2017