Luther College alumnus given Pioneer Memorial Award

Curtis Reiso, Luther College class of 1954, was given the Pioneer Memorial Award at the Heritage Club Dinner in Decorah this spring.

The Pioneer Memorial Award was established in 1988 to honor individuals who characterize the spirit of Heritage Club and whose generous support serves as an inspiration to others. It is for his visionary commitment and steadfast support to Luther that the college presented the 2013 Pioneer Memorial Award to Reiso.

Heritage Club recognizes planned gifts to Luther. Planned gifts qualify donors for President's Council membership for one year, and select planned gifts may qualify donors for President's Council life membership.

Heritage Club Members are recognized annually during Commencement Weekend at the Heritage Club Dinner.

Reiso left a lasting and impressive mark on Luther. He spent more than 40 years working at the college, retiring in 1995. In addition to the work he did as manager of Luther's musical organizations, where he coordinated 86 concert tours, Reiso spent time in the admissions and development offices, as well as the college's career center.

While serving as associate director of development, he oversaw all alumni activities, including homecoming and Alumni Council, and he raised funds for projects such as the Field House, Valders Hall of Science, Preus Library, and the Center for Faith and Life.

After he was promoted to the position of executive director of development and later to associate vice president, Reiso planted the seeds for many of the department's current programs as he coordinated alumni development boards throughout the country and initiated parents, class agent and donor-recognition programs. His work responsibilities also grew to include public relations, public information, corporate and foundation activity, and planned giving.

A talented musician and athlete, Reiso arrived at Luther in 1950, after graduating from high school in Scarville, Iowa. His tenor sax-playing abilities and baritone vocals paved the way to musical success, earning him membership in the Norsemen Quartet and Luther College Choir all four years. He served as choir president and tour manager his senior year.

After graduating in 1954 with a business administration major, Reiso began his career at Luther. He was sidelined for two years after being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1955, where he completed guided missile radar training and served in the 13th AAA Missile Battalion. Over the years, he organized countless performances, itineraries, and regional and international tours for Luther's Concert Band, Symphony Orchestra and Nordic Choir. In 1995 he retired, but continued to stay involved with Luther activities, and in his support of the college.

In addition to his consistent gifts to the Annual Fund, various capital projects, and the Reiso Endowment Fund—established to support career development and professional growth of administrative and support staff at Luther College, Reiso has demonstrated his commitment to the college through generous planned gifts. 

In 2008 he funded a gift annuity of $420,000 to enhance the Reiso staff development fund, and, in 2013, Curt gifted farmland valued at $1,193,900, with $500,000 committed outright toward Luther’s aquatic center and $693,900 designated for a second gift annuity that will fund an endowment supporting Jenson-Noble Hall of Music.  In recognition of his exceptional loyalty, the college is pleased to also announce that a highly visible, integral space in Jenson-Noble—the main hallway—will be named the Curtis Reiso Atrium.  To enhance the impact of these endowments, Reiso named Luther the beneficiary of his estate, by generously designating the college to receive both his home and cabin properties.