Class of 1965 Fall 2019 Letter

Fall 2019

Dear Luther Class of 1965 Friend!

Another school year begins!  58 years ago you arrived in that dear little town of Decorah, Iowa to start your four years at Luther College, “the first day of the rest of your life” - building the enduring foundations of:

·  life-long friendships,

·  a career that would challenge and reward you,

·  skills and passion for meaningful involvement in the betterment of the communities in which you will live, and

·  inspiring you to share your faith and calling, to be a lifelong servant leader, especially to those most vulnerable in our world. 

Your college life choices included learning, playing, faith formation and questioning, laughing, crying, loving, diverse academics, music/arts/theater, sports, and every other opportunity - all forming the thoughts and actions you continue to embed in your life today, yes even in your golden retirement days!

I hope you have memories that inform, and have informed, your daily life experiences and choices that were begun at Luther College  - feeling them pulse through your busy life even as you navigate your delightful “leisurely life of retirement.”  Aren’t you lucky to have had those meaningful and memorable four years at Luther, and to be able to celebrate all that means to you even today?

Norkie has compiled a wonderful set of accolades and titles that Decorah, and often Luther College’s presence there, has received over the years – highlighting those special memories from 50+ years ago.  Thanks Norkie, for sharing this journey, reminding us of things we maybe already knew or maybe a few things we did not know.  These are Norkie’s findings for you to enjoy and reminisce!!!


Norkie, Your Man in Decorah is amazed: 10 Times Our Decorah Got An Awesome New Title 

I, for one, am uncomfortable seeing our glorious town receive some very big attention. I am worried these awards and titles will attract riff-raff, weaken our DNA, turn us into another Carefree or Wayzata.

Ask most locals and they'll tell you, their social media newsfeeds light up several times a year with status updates like "Decorah made another list!" From Forbes to Midwest Living, there's something so seemingly special about this place that it inspires visits from writers, adventurers, world-class beer connoisseurs, and even presidents.   

1.    A Mountain Town Without Mountains  


This write-up in Midwest Living is pure poetry. Read it all the way through-- even if you're a local, there's a lot to learn here. "In the Driftless Area of northeast Iowa, Decorah has become a magnet for freethinkers, nature-lovers and beer nerds. They’re proving you don’t need mountains to build a mountain town."  

2.    One of Smithsonian's Best Small Towns to Visit

( - Decorah is 19 of the 20 towns listed.

Smithsonian Magazine worked with the geographical information systems company Esri, which "analyzed tons of data to find towns or cities of fewer than 15,000 residents where cultural opportunities abound". Putting a spotlight on Dunning's Spring and Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum and Heritage Center, the magazine took heart in the premium Decorah places on both culture and beauty. 

3.    One of America's Prettiest Towns


This nod from Forbes encouraged visitors to stay at the historic Hotel Winneshiek, and bike, fish, and hike the Upper Iowa River Valley. 

4.    A Pocket of Norway


According to Midwest Weekends,  “Tourists from Norway often are surprised by Decorah, commenting that the locals are more Norwegian than they are." The publication notes "Nordic Fest in July is one of the region's biggest and best festivals, drawing 10,000 people for a weekend of Old World immersion where rosemalers paint, acanthus carvers whittle, fiddlers accompany folk dancers, Viking re-enactors fashion mail shirts, and street stands sell krumkake, sandbakkels, and rosettes, with nary a corn dog in sight.” 

5.    One of 100 Best Small Towns 


This feature on alludes to Decorah's history and variety of available activities. Contributing to the city’s quality of life is a major trout hatchery along with many scenic parks, including some built on bluffs. The Decorah Community School District as well as four-year Luther College, which is renown for its Nordic Choir, have earned several education accolades."  

6.    One of the Top 25 College Towns in the Nation  (

According to USA Today, which covered the online ranking, "Decorah, was listed as No. 10, with a B for cost of living, and A for nightlife. The city was praised for how residents 'still find plenty to do' despite the 'small-town vibe.' The home to Luther College also was praised for its ‘mom and pop shops' and its quick access to "great outdoor opportunities." 

7.    Most Hippie Town in Iowa


According to, "It’s also home to Luther College -- a small liberal arts school with a strong arts program -- and a natural foods co-op, about as common in small Midwestern towns as scuba shops. It’s also home to two breweries, which while not exactly hippie, don’t exactly scream “middle of the corn belt” eithe

8.    On the Beer Map

The Chicago Tribune and other publications have highlighted the burgeoning breweries in Decorah as thoroughly remarkable. "To beer fans, that modest brown building just outside of Decorah's quaint downtown, above a bend in the Upper Iowa River, is home to the world's second-best brewery. That's right, the world's second-best brewery. In rural northeast Iowa." 

9.    Iowa Great Place

Decorah went so far as to win an award from the state of Iowa. According to the award, “An Iowa Great Place proactively implements sustainable community development principles and works toward greater energy efficiency, which produces a clean, healthy and accessible natural and built environment.”

10.  One of the 10 Most Beautiful Towns in Iowa
( evokes Decorah's unique culture and natural beauty. "From the natural scenery, which includes bluffs, valleys, and rivers, to stunning architecture found around town, Decorah is a place for both outdoor and culture lovers. Guests can stroll along the charming Water Street, complete with floral baskets in the warmer months, where they will find incredible buildings housing galleries, unique shops, and restaurants." 

Absolutely:  Get Peaceful, Get Going (or get both) and head on out of Decorah!  We love our sweet little town and want to keep the streets quiet, be able to park, listen to the birds, throw in a line - and not suffer riff-raff acclaiming its glory! Go on, get outta town. 

Yours ‘til the cows come home,



Thanks Norkie!  This is a perfect time to start planning for our 55-Year Class Reunion in October of 2020!  You may want to add an extra day or two and take the opportunity to check out these places for which Decorah has garnered the accolades of “best, top 25, most hippie, great, most beautiful”!!!  Hope you will find time to enjoy some of Norkie’s findings!

Fifty-eight years ago, you began that chapter in your life entitled - Luther College, with its sixth President, President Farwell.  On November 1 – 3, Luther inaugurated its eleventh president, Dr. Jenifer K. Ward.  President Ward joins the Luther community with more than three decades of experience as an educator, scholar, and academic leader.  She served at Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana, at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington, and at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota.      

In a message to the Luther community, President Ward said, “Our work together must be strategic, collaborative, creative, and—most importantly—must articulate what it means to be both grounded in Decorah, Iowa with a face to the world, and set goals for how we can adapt Luther’s past and present for a sustainable future.” A self-described extrovert and lover of art, film, and literature, President Ward started her duties at Luther July 1, and her official inauguration took place November 1–3.

Learn more about President Ward—including her thoughts on food, art, Twitter, Decorah, and higher ed:                                                                                                                          

· on Luther’s YouTube channel:, then search “Luther College President Ward”.                                                                                                                                

· in the fall issue of the Luther Magazine:

  • follow Luther College on Twitter: @LutherCollege
  • follow Luther College on Instagram: @LutherCollege
  • follow the Luther College Alumni Facebook page:

Also, keep in mind that Christmas at Luther takes place December 5–8. This year’s theme is Whom Angels Greet with Anthems Sweet

I wish you many more wonderful days and years to fondly remember the many gifts Luther, and Decorah, and the Oneota Valley gave you in 1961 to 1965. 

Sometimes I wish I could go back and relive a week or two or more – glorious memories! 

I hope you can be at Homecoming next year to share that joy with the rest of your Luther friends!   Our Homecoming 55-Year Reunion will be October 9-11, 2020. Call and make your lodging reservations now!

Soli deo Gloria!

Lori (Wogen) Haaland

1965 Class Agent
12245 Edison Street NE
Blaine, MN 55449-5719
[email protected]


Dwight Odell Backman of Sparta, Wis., died May 23, 2019, age 75.

Mary Margaret Niebuhr of Arlington, Va., died Oct. 15, 2018, age 75.

The full obituaries of classmates listed in this letter can be found on the Luther College website at:

If you would like a printout of the obituaries listed above in their entirety mailed to you, please contact us at: [email protected], or 563-387-1509.