Paul Solberg, Luther College graduate, educator and coach, dies at 79

Paul Solberg, 79, of Decorah, Iowa, passed away Tuesday, Nov. 28, at Aase Haugen in Decorah. Memorial and funeral arrangements are pending; Fjelstul Funeral Home in Decorah will handle arrangements.

Solberg was a 1957 graduate of Spring Grove High School and a 1961 graduate of Luther College. While a student at Luther, Solberg lettered three times in football and four times in track and was listed in "Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities." He was a member of two Iowa Conference championship track and field teams, and the football team went 29-5-1 during his career.

Solberg returned to the college to teach and coach in 1966. In the interim, he taught in Buffalo Lake, Minnesota, 1961-65. He earned a master's degree in 1969 from Mankato State University and studied toward a doctorate at the University of Iowa.

Serving Luther for more than 35 years, Solberg held positions as professor of health and physical education and assistant football coach from 1966-2001, assistant track coach from 1966-67, head wrestling coach from 1966-80 and 1982-83, and head baseball coach from 1980-2001. He also served for a time as the head tennis coach. In addition to his teaching and coaching duties, Solberg also served as assistant director and then director of athletics.

Under Solberg, the Norse wrestling program won three conference championships, and had its first national wrestling champion when Dan Boos won the 142-pound weight class in NCAA Division III and took eighth in NCAA Division I. Solberg coached three individual national champions and 14 All-America wrestlers. The college dedicated the Paul Solberg Wrestling Complex in his name in 2005.

He was named IIAC Coach of the Year seven times; once in tennis, three times in wrestling and three times in baseball. He also earned the Region V Coach of the Year title in baseball. Solberg earned his place in the Luther College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001 and the NWCA Hall of Fame in 2005. During his tenure at Luther, Solberg was involved with more Iowa Conference championships than any athletic director, head coach or professor in the history of the college.

Of the many legacies he left Luther, one of the most notable is his development of the Adapted Physical Education program where Luther students work one-on-one with a special needs student. He taught the course for 27 years, and it continues to be a favorite class among Luther students long after his retirement. The course had as many as 150 special needs students from 13 area schools participate in the program in any given semester. Solberg was recognized nationally as an innovator and leader in the field of adaptive physical education for young people.

He retired with emeritus status from Luther in 2001.

Paul Solberg is survived by his wife Carolyn; daughter Jean Solberg of Dixon, Illinois; son Brian (Denise) Solberg of Decorah, Iowa; four grandchildren Amanda (Adam) Johnson, Stephanie Kennay, Kalle Solberg and Keaton Solberg; and five great grandchildren Colette Johnson, Alana Johnson, Milton Johnson, Elijah Robinson and Ezekiel Robinson; brothers Stanley (Carol) Solberg of St. Peter, Minnesota, David (Eileen) Solberg of Hiawatha, Iowa, and Donald Solberg of Hokah, Minnesota; sisters Margaret Flaten of Sparta, Wisconsin, and Judy Ashbacher of Lansing, Iowa; sister in-law Judy Solberg of Des Moines, Iowa; and many nieces and nephews.  


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