Erno Joyce Dahl, 90, died peacefully in his home in San Antonio on March 12, 2019, with his wife of 65 years at his side. He was born in Waco, Texas, on Armistice (Veterans) Day, and grew up in nearby Clifton. He was preceded in death by his parents Sylvia and Hans B. Dahl and his stepmother Clarice Nelson Dahl.
In 1946 he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served one year in China and one on Guam. He was a graduate of Clifton Junior College, Luther College, and Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. In 1953 he married Suzanne Preus ‘53. They spent two years in England, where he earned his Ph.D. in British religious thought at Durham University, concentrating on the writing of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
He began his career in academia teaching religion at Texas Lutheran College (now University) in Seguin and was proud to be named "best lecturer." In 1964 he became Dean of the College. While there he was ordained into the ministry of the Lutheran Church. Four years later the family moved to Springfield, Ohio, where he served as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Wittenberg University. Other positions included Chairman of the Clark County Bicentennial Committee and President of the Council for International Educational Exchange. From 1977 to 1986 Erno was President of Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis. He also acted as President of the Wisconsin Foundation of Independent Colleges. He was always a champion of independent liberal arts colleges, and the three in which he served were associated with the Lutheran Church, ELCA. He received the Distinguished Service Award from Luther College and an Honorary Doctorate in Education from Carthage College.
In 1987 the couple retired in San Antonio and became members of Shepherd King Lutheran Church. He occasionally served as supply pastor for Lutheran congregations in the area and volunteered at Christian Assistance Ministry (CAM).
He is survived by his wife, Suzanne (Preus) Dahl ’53; two sons, Jeremy Dahl (Bo Wang) and Jeffrey Dahl (Suzanne Rostomian); five grandchildren, Anna Dahl (Christoffer Hjalmroth), Elliot Dahl (Florence Navarro), Natalie Ann Dahl, Nathan Dahl, and Bergen Dahl, and two great-grandchildren, Henry and Edith Hjalmroth; his brother Alton J. Dahl (Beverly Barnett), sister-in-law Mary Preus ’63, and husband Jonathan Preus ‘61, and beloved nieces and nephews.
Erno was adventurous and loved to travel. He and Suzanne traveled extensively. He was also passionate about nature and spending time in the summer at the lake cabin he built in northwest Wisconsin, where his great joy was fishing with his sons while floating the St. Croix River in a canoe.
The family is grateful for the loving care provided by the nurses and caregivers of Abiding Home Health and A Comfort Care.
A memorial service was held at Shepherd King Lutheran Church, 303 W. Ramsey, San Antonio, on April 9. Memorials may be made to Texas Lutheran University, CAM, the Nature Conservancy, or the charity of your choice.
From Carthage College:
Carthage mourns the passing of its 19th president, Erno Dahl, who worked to strengthen the College’s ties with the community and the Lutheran church from 1977 to 1986.
Mr. Dahl died March 12 in San Antonio, where he lived with his wife, Suzanne. He was 90.
The endowment doubled during his presidency, fourth-longest in Carthage’s history. Beyond the campus boundaries, he served as president of the Council of Lutheran Church in America Colleges and vice president of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
His insistence that “small colleges like Carthage have much to offer simply because they are ‘small’” came through in a 1977 interview.
“Forty years ago, Erno Dahl deeply understood the enduring value of a Carthage education and communicated that value tirelessly,” said President John Swallow. “The higher ed landscape has certainly changed in the ensuing years, but his contributions should remind us that our roots remain a major source of the College’s distinctiveness.”
After serving in the United States Marine Corps, Mr. Dahl earned undergraduate degrees from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He later added a Ph.D. in British religious thought from the University of Durham in England.
From 1957 to 1968, Mr. Dahl was on the faculty of Texas Lutheran College, becoming dean of the College in 1964. In 1968, he moved to Wittenberg University in Ohio, where he served as vice president for academic affairs until accepting the top position at Carthage.
“I remember him as a kind and gentle man, fully engaged in all aspects of the institution,” said Professor Kurt Piepenburg ’77, chair of the Geospatial Science Department, who joined the faculty in 1984. “He was simultaneously reflective and inspirational, and Carthage is a better place because of his leadership.”
Ordained by the American Lutheran Church in 1960, Mr. Dahl served as an interim pastor of Lutheran congregations in Texas after leaving Carthage. He also volunteered for church-related social service organizations.
The College awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2009. Five scholarships are presented annually in his name to incoming students through the Presidential Scholarship program.
Besides his wife, Mr. Dahl’s surviving family members include two adult sons, Jeremy and Jeffrey; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. A memorial service in San Antonio will be held in April. Flags on the Carthage campus will fly at half-staff for the week in honor of his memory.