Kent Finanger to receive Spirit of Luther Award

Aug. 14, 2012

Award honors legacy of service, commitment and support to Luther College

Luther College President Richard Torgerson will present the college's Spirit of Luther Award to longtime Luther coach and professor Kent Finanger at the school's opening convocation Thursday, Aug. 30 at 9:40 a.m. in the Center for Faith and Life.

The service is open to the public with no charge for admission.

Finanger, a 1954 Luther graduate, is being honored for his commitment to, love of and support for Luther College and the Decorah community.

"Luther College has always viewed athletics as an integral part of the total student experience. Coach Kent is a living example of that philosophy," said President Torgerson. "He poured his heart and soul into teaching, coaching and mentoring young people at Luther and continues to personify the spirit of Luther." 

Established in 2001, the Spirit of Luther Award recognizes and honors individuals who provide significant, sustained service to the college. Award recipients are chosen among nominees who demonstrate a personal commitment to Luther's character, quality and mission.  

Among his many honors and accomplishments as a Luther coach, Finanger guided the college's 1985 cross country team to the NCAA Division III National Championships. His cross country teams won 21 Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles over a 27 year period.

While a student at Luther, Finanger was named all-conference in football and basketball his junior and senior seasons, a Small College all-American in Football his junior season and conference long jump champion his senior season.

After graduation, Finanger joined the military service for two-years. He earned the master's degree in physical education from the University of Wisconsin, and the doctoral degree in physical education from the University of Iowa.

He became a professor in the health and physical education department, chairing the department from 1964-1996. As a coach at his alma mater, he logged nearly 90 seasons of coaching in five sports: baseball, basketball, cross country, football, and track and field.

He coached football for nine seasons, served as assistant basketball coach for 10 seasons, head basketball coach for 15 seasons, assistant baseball coach for 17 seasons, assistant track and field for two seasons, head track and field coach for 7 seasons and head cross country coach for 27 seasons.

While Finanger was at the helm, Luther track and field teams won five Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference team titles, placed second in the 1965 NCAA College Division National Championships in Long Beach, Calif. and received five all-America honors that season.

Finanger's teams won 21 Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference cross country team titles in 27 years. He guided Luther's cross country team to the 1985 national title. His teams finished in the top 10 national team finishers 10 times, placing second in 1978, third in 1980 and fifth in 1987.

He served as president of the NCAA Division III Cross Country Coaches Association, served as a committee member for the NCAA Track and Field Committee, director of the International Coaches Team to Iceland four times. He was a renowned sports clinic speaker.

Finanger was honored as NCAA Division III Cross Country Coach of the Year once, and 21 times as the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Cross Country Coach of the Year.

Finanger was inducted into Luther's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Iowa Association of Track Coaches Hall of Fame in 1998.

Finanger served on the Decorah Community School Board for 12 years, and was an active member of Rotary, Winneshiek County Red Cross, the Decorah All-Sports Club and other organizations.

He is now retired; his days are filled with visits to and from his children and grandchildren.

Kent Finanger, 2012 Spirit of Luther recipient