Luther: 10 Years Later

The ideas and viewpoints expressed in the posts on the Ideas and Creations blog are solely the view of the author(s). Luther College's mission statement calls us to "embrace diversity and challenge one another to learn in community," and to be "enlivened and transformed by encounters with one another, by the exchange of ideas, and by the life of faith and learning." Alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of the college are encouraged to express their views, model "good disagreement" and engage in respectful dialogue.

My Luther experience as a student was transformational and wide-ranging. It began as simply a place where I knew I would be able to sing and swim at a high level and became the place where I toured the Midwest; won conference championships; prepared for an impactful career as a middle school teacher; developed the deepest, most meaningful and lasting relationships of my life; and was challenged to become the best person I could be. Now, ten years after graduating, I am ecstatic to be back in Decorah and honored to be leading the program I once competed for. This has led me to consider the three aspects of my Luther education that mattered the most and how I plan to pass it on.

Luther Helps You Explore Deeper Meaning

A Luther education is more than learning facts or information, it’s about looking deeper at your ideas and beliefs, having them challenged, and finding meaning in life. Starting with Paideia and Religion 101, our preconceptions were reopened, reevaluated, and reformed with each other. From reading classic literature and primary texts (including the Allegory of the Cave, the Bible and the Origin of Species and Bhagavad Gita) to understand another culture and way of thinking, my professors asked me to do more than read but to take an idea down to its foundation and build it back up with my peers. To ask ourselves what could something really mean and become and how one person could make a difference. It prepared us to leave college with a broader worldview, understanding, and compassion for others. It gave me the mindset to live a life of impact and to conquer the challenges before me.

Formed in Community

For me, that included standing in mass to a “hup” from Dr. Tim Peter ’86 in Norsemen and Collegiate Chorale, continued with conversations in professors' homes and at T-Bocks, and was on Luther Swimming and Diving. I found a family and learned perseverance doing 6 a.m. doubles, whacking arms in the pool, and through hypoxic breathing exercises and crashing waves off the old pool’s gutterless walls. I found my family and best friends while staring at a black line and swimming EN3+ (heart rate >168 bpm) for minutes and hours at a time, all while knowing the person in front, behind, or next to me was doing the same and cared about it as much as I did. We had shared goals and reached our individual ones together. I will never forget having Adam Waudby’s (’07) cowboy hat put on me in my first meet freshman year to celebrating with my relay mates after winning the 400 Free Relay at the Liberal Arts Championships my senior year.  It’s no mistake that everywhere I go, I see Luther apparel and class rings. These are the relationships that endure! These are the friendships that last a lifetime!

A Luther Education is Impactful

Today, more than ever, I am proud of that education. In a world where we are often asked to think only of ourselves and to parse out real from fake news in addition to doing it all during a global pandemic, I see Luther graduates making a difference. I see them in our hospitals: the nurses, doctors, and biological researchers; I see them in our classrooms: the teachers, administrators, and policy makers; I see them in churches and fields, on the news, and leading our country’s response to coronavirus (thank you Dr. Mike Osterholm). Luther prepared me and so many others to make an impact! It gave us the time and place to pursue our passions, find our callings, to make a difference in our workplaces, communities, and society.

This leads me back to today. I am proud to be back at Luther as head coach at my alma mater. I am no longer writing research papers in Paideia (although I’ve reflected more on my own: how Euroamerican man destroyed an ecosystem and drove American bison to near extinction); I am asking my athletes what they are researching and writing about, counseling them on classes, and leading academic and social conversations over Zoom calls. I am no longer swimming countless laps; I am writing the practices that will challenge them to succeed. I am in a position I didn’t foresee when I graduated and one I am grateful for every day. It’s a position that gives me the opportunity to pay it forward, to share the family bond I experienced on Luther Swimming and Diving, to nurture their relationships and experience, and to cultivate the impact that they will have every day during their four years at Luther and beyond. While this was just my first year back at Luther since graduating, I’ve never been more proud to be a Norse!

Coach Aaron Zander was named 2020 Liberal Arts Conference Women’s Coach of the Year. He is proud to share that three of his middle school students are undergrads at Luther and three of his club athletes now swim for Luther. He is excited to see his teammates and classmates this fall at Homecoming and the Alumni Meet for their 10th Reunion.

Senior Women 2020: (left to right) Alix Sharp, Ellen Harvey, Coach Aaron, Paige Hanssen, Shannon Lunn.
Hawaii: Cameron Webb '09, Coach Aaron, Eric Crawford '08.
Post-race at Racine Half Ironman: (Front Row) Josiah Collins '10, Coach Aaron, Addison (Choi) Perrott '11, Erin Voelschow '12 (Back Row) Valerie Hoops '08, Lisbeth Finseth '13, Cameron Webb '09, Amy (Schneider) Webb '09, Bryan Perrott '08.

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  • May 13 2020 at 9:37 am
    Nathan Ersig '98

    Aaron, you captured perfectly what a Luther College experience is. While everyone's story is different, we all have explored deeper meaning, found our 'community', and ultimately made an impact after we have left. I, too, came 'home' to Luther seven years ago, but know that for many, Luther is with them and a part of them, whether they are on campus or not. Thank you!

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