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Contact Information

Hayley Jackson
College Archivist

Preus Library 310
Upper Floor
Luther College
700 College Drive

The Archives is open for research from 1:00-4:30, Monday-Friday, and by appointment.

Phone: 563-387-1805


Early Years
Luther students began organizing baseball team early in the college’s history. These teams or clubs consisted of approximately 18 men and they rarely played against other clubs. Luther’s first official baseball team was organized in 1872. They competed against local teams including Waukon, Cresco, and Decorah.

Intercollegiate Play
A popular date for important games was May 17th, Norway’s Independence day. In 1891, this celebration included Luther’s first intercollegiate game. Their opponent was St. Olaf. After an exciting game, the final score was 9-4 in favor of Luther. After that game, Luther began competing against teams from the University of Iowa, the University of Minnesota, Cornell College, and Upper Iowa University. On a few occasions they also played teams from Notre Dame, Hosei University of Japan and College of Hawaii.

In 1893 the Luther baseball team took their first extensive tour. Before this time the team had only played on their own field. This famous team was known for their undefended tour during which they beat both Cornell college and the University of Iowa.

Playing Field
The original baseball field was located on what is now the library lawn close to Valders Hall of Science. Games were played there through the 1969 season. The new field was constructed in the lowland of Oneota Valley as part of Luther’s lower campus.

Baseball Tragedy
Luther baseball has not been without tragedy. During a game against St. Olaf in 1963, Leon Olson, starting catcher for the Norseman, was hit on the temple while up to bat. The hit cracked his helmet and knocked him off his feet. He shook it off and was ready to continue but it was decided that he should be taken to the hospital.

After being examined three different times, it was finally evident that he needed immediate surgery. Through out the surgery, Leon’s teammates waited at the hospital in Rochester, Minnesota, for news of the operation.

The surgery was a success as far as removing the hemorrhage in the motor areas of his brain. Leon was in rehab for months while strengthening his motor skills. He never was able to speak again, but learned to use a typewriter to communicate with family and friends after returning home.

A Baseball Family
On May 24, 1915 the Sorlien family of nine was Luther college’s opponent in a game of baseball. The brothers already had a connection to Luther College prior to their baseball game against the school team. The family was made up of nine brothers, all raised on the families farm near Bode, Iowa. Three of the oldest boys had attended Luther between 1901 and 1912. At the time, three of the youngest boys were enrolled in the Luther Prep department.

This unusual game brought a large audience. The teams were tied well into the eleventh inning when one of the Sorlien brothers hit a home run. After that the Luther team scored two runs to come back and beat the brothers. The historic game was never repeated due to the older brothers proximity to Decorah.


  • Nelson, David T., Luther College 1861-1961, Luther College Press, Decorah: 1961
  • Peterson, Hamlet E., The Noble Norsemen, Luther College Press, Decorah: 1972

Luther College Boarding Club

The First Club
Starting in 1896, the students at Luther College began a Boarding Club to feed their fellow classmates.

The Beginnings
In June of 1896, a small number of students got together and wrote a constitution for the Luther College Boarding Club. Afterwards they elected the first set of officers for the club setting the job precedent for the years to come. At the top was the manager who was in charge of the hirings and firings as well as the general overseer. Next came the treasurer who collected the students fees and paid the bills, after which came the buyer who was in charge of buying the food from wholesalers and Decorah businesses. Finally there were two to three directors who met with the other officers to determine menu and policy. The first officers were as follows: Manager – H. J. Wein; Treasurer – Oscar Strom; Buyer – Ola Ordal; an added Secretary – C. M. Hallanger; and the board of directors – Chr. Thompson, J.M. Peterson, K.M. Hagestad (Chips, 1896). The average cost per week was $1.30 (Chips, 1897).

As any look through the Luther College Chips will show, the Boarding Club received a flood of support from the faculty and Decorah businesses. Each donation was marked by a thank you posted in Chips. Some examples are apples from Rev. V. Koren, as well as buns and butter from Rev. M. Borge (Chips, 1898). Some faculty would even donate food in honor of certain events, e.g. Prof. T. E. Thompson providing the boarding club with ice cream on the arrival of a new baby girl (Chips, 1909). One notable donation was from George Lommen, a Luther graduate and classmate of Pres. C. K. Preus, who donated a 175-pound reindeer for Thanksgiving dinner. Then living in Nome, Alaska working as a lawyer and partner in a reindeer business, his mother was the first housekeeper of the boarding club when it began in the basement of Main (Chips, 1917).

Elections were held on during chapel in the early years of the club before being moved to Saturday afternoons. When the Boarding Club started, these elections were moments of great oration from the students because officer positions came with several benefits. These included free board, free laundry, line-crashing privileges, free coffee, cream instead of milk, and $5 a month (Chips, 1962). However as the years went on, these elections lost much of their competition as only one student would run for each office losing the “high-flowing outburst of oratory” that had previously been common (Chips, 1913).

Until 1917, the Boarding Club was located in the basement of the Main building. It was lost during the fire of the first Main building and rebuilt into the plan of the second building. In 1908 there was also a fire in the club’s bakery, southwest of the Main building. Some damage was done to part of the interior, some flour, and a heating box (Chips, 1908). Improvements were made with the aid of student fund raising and by 1920 the fee was up to $16 a month (Chips, 1975). However this location soon proved inadequate for the growing number of Luther students.

Loyalty Hall
A new building was soon built, named Loyalty Hall, and dedicated on Dec. 20, 1917. The entire student body and faculty were invited to the first dinner held in the new dining facility. Over 200 people were served a six-course dinner put together by Boarding Club management and the superintendent of cuisine, Miss Marie Stephenson (Chips, 1917). The building was paid for by month assessments on the members of the Boarding Club. Not long after this, in 1932, the school took formal control over from the students.

In 1936 co-education came to Luther college but it did not come easily. During the years before, the female members of the Decorah College for Women, while allowed to participate in most college activities, were not allowed into the Boarding Club, a males only area. In order to placate the women, they were given a small lounge area in the Main building with very little furniture and were allowed to bring their own food (Chips, 1972).

By the end of the 1960s a new building had been built, the Centennial Union (now the Dahl Centennial Union), which for the first time since World War II could accommodate all the Luther students for meals at one time. Also added was a small cafe called Dante’s for a more informal, lounge setting. This marked the official end of the Boarding Club, although the argument could be made that it ended when the college took control in 1932.

Luther College Archives

College Chips
June 1896, Vol. 13, No. 6, pg. 83-84
June 1897, Vol. 14, No. 6, pg. 81-82
Sept. 1898, Vol 15, No. 7, pg. 110
Sept. 1906, Vol. 23 No. 7, pg. 101, 181
1908, Vol. 26, No. 4, pg. 45, 69
1909, Vol. 26, No. 8, pg. 78, 178
Feb. 1913, Vol. 30, No. 2, pg. 101
Jan. 1917, Vol. 34, No. 1, pg. 29, 31
Oct. 12, 1962, Vol. 80, No. 5, pg. 5
Nov. 10, 1972, Vol. 90, No. 8, pg. 3-4
May 16, 1975, Vol. 92, No. 25, pg. 6

The First Stirrings

Comitia Dumriana
Between 1873 and 1874, in a time when men ruled the Luther College campus, women took their first steps into the college life. They called themselves Comitia Dumriana, translated as “an assembly of the silly fair.” The nine girls, mostly daughters of pastors and professors, studied German, French, English, Norwegian, and history under professors of Luther College. Three or four of the girls were from out of town and were given housing in the Campus House with the Brandt family. The members of this group were: Henriette Koren; Caroline Koren (Mrs. C. A. Naeseth); Thora Larsen (Mrs. J. W. Magelssen); Margrethe Brandt (Mrs. L. S. Reque); Rosin Preus (Mrs. J. Nordby); Louise Hjort (Mrs. C. K. Preus); Emma Larsen (Mrs. Nils N. Helle); Mathilda Stub (Mrs. H. B. Thorgrimsen); and Marie Reque (Mrs. H. B. Hustvedt).

1880s/90s Proposals
Many other colleges being founded in this period were starting coeducation, St. Olaf’s School in 1874 being one example, spurring the idea at Luther College. Many of them were, in fact, being staffed by Luther College men. Two of these men were strong supporters for coeducation at Luther College: Gisle Bothne (class of 1878) and Ole M. Kalheim (class of 1884), then a teacher at St. Olaf’s School. Much of the debate was seen in College Chips until finally the English edition editorially endorsed coeducation. However President Laur Larsen opposed any change in the demographics of Luther College. In 1890 the Norwegian Synod called for a committee to investigate the idea but, by the next year, the report was quietly buried by the administration of the college. After these proposals died there wasn’t another strong argument made until the early 1930s.

The Next Step
On September 24, 1931 President Oscar L. Olson stated to the faculty that he was going to advocate for coeducation at Luther College. This support was closely followed by that of the faculty and the Board of Trustees. This came on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the college and was the main topic of conversation during the celebration. An alumni meeting, which took up the majority of the day, heavily discussed the idea but came to no definite decision and was finally tabled. The decision then passed to the ruling Norwegian Lutheran Church of America Board of Education who faced many financial issues. Many thought that allowing women into the college would hurt its perilous financial position since it would require the building of a female dormitory and possibly additions to the faculty. The matter was eventually forgotten in the face of President Olson’s resignation.

Decorah Junior College for Girls
In June of 1931 members of the Decorah Chamber of Commerce met with the Luther College Board of Trustees who agreed to allow women to attend Luther College that fall, subject to the approval of the Board of Education, which did not give approval. This encouraged a grass roots effort to support education for women in Decorah. On August 1, 1932 a permanent organization was established and articles of incorporation were adopted naming the new institution “The Decorah Junior College for Girls,” offering two year courses. Many professors and women of the city served as the advisory members. A residence on Broadway was decided as the main building with Ottar Tinglum, from Luther College, elected as the president. Luther College wanted to show their support to the small school and so offered professors’ services, libraries, laboratories, and some student privileges to the girls. This school and Luther College entered into a general contract for 1933-35 in which the women paid dues, attended chapel, and were admitted to student organizations. At this point, Luther College was virtually coeducational but for the technical aspects.

1930s Proposals
Many thought that coeducation at Luther College had begun but the Board of Education had not yet given its final approval. In an attempt to alter their stance, the college trustees on July 26, 1933 again proposed that women be admitted yet also stated that the college would continue as an institution for men unless a resolution changed it. In February, the Board of Education approved this proposal but by June of 1934 had reversed this decision based on the contradictory nature of the proposal. A new resolution was drawn up by Carl F. Granrud.

Financial Issues
At the 1934 convention of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, the issue was not coeducation but rather the future of Luther College as an independent institution. A committee was put together to report on the educational system of the church which focused on a merger between Luther College and St. Olaf College to meet the financial crisis of the church. This report almost caused a civil war with the Norwegian Church and soon after the financial issues began to improve sparing the college.

Final Jump
Through an amendment to the articles of incorporation the “Decorah Junior College for Girls” became the Decorah College for Women on April 3, 1935. Soon after they received accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools as a four year program. The first B. A. degrees were conferred on Doris A. Erickson and Esther M. Hanson at the Luther College commencement ceremony on June 4, 1935. In 1936 five graduated with a B. A. degree: Ruth A. Graeber, Helen M. Hoff, Dorcas V. Jacobson, Laura M. Monson, and Lily B. Nelson. Still coeducation at Luther had yet to be officially settled. However, a report to the Board of Education was adopted by the 1936 Norwegian Luther Church of America convention which stipulated that Luther would be coeducational. Later that year the Luther College Board of Trustees made the 1936 alumnae of the Decorah College for Women official alumnae of Luther College, making them the first women to graduate from Luther.

The Luther College Alumni Association elected a committee in 1935 to propose a revised set of articles for Luther College which included coeducation and took away much of the power of the Board of Education, instead investing in the power of the Luther College Board of Trustees. These articles were accepted by the college and the coeducation amendment adopted by a vote of 472 to 31. De facto coeducation had finally become de jure.

Luther College Archives

Nelson, David T., Luther College 1861-1961, Luther College Press, Decorah: 1961

College Chips is a weekly student publication of Luther College. It is exclusively designed, composed, and managed by Luther students.


   Valeat quantum valere protest  "Let it pass for what it is worth" 

This was the motto chosen in 1884 by the first editors. The name Chips comes from the same idea.

In 1878, students approached the college for permission to press and publish a paper. During a faculty meeting in February of 1878 it was decided that this was a “dangerous experiment.” Eventually the first issue appeared in January of 1884. It was twelve pages and written completely in English, which at the time was unique for Luther. After protest from faculty and students, Chips was published in both English and Norwegian from 1889 through 1897. This publication continued to come under attack from the administration and the church. They believed that students had better things to do than concentrate on producing a publication. Through all of this opposition, Chips continued to be Luther’s primary student publication.

The philosophy of this publication is outlined biannually by students. Three purposes have stood firm throughout the papers existence, which are outlined on the Chips website.

 1. Chips is a forum for campus news and opinion.
 2. Chips is the Luther College newspaper of record.
 3. Chips is also a learning environment, offering students a co-curricular opportunity.

Chips website,
Chips archives,

Timeline of significant events in the history of the governance of Luther College:
1865 – Articles of Incorporation authored.

1871 – Amendments to Article III (Church Council renamed – “Board of Visitors”); Article III (President and Professors renamed “Board of Faculty”); Article IV (Treasurer could not be a member of the Board of Trustees); Article X (Added duties of the Treasurer) Bylaws adopted.

1872 – Amendment to Article IV (Corporation meetings can be held in states bordering Iowa.)

1878 – Amendment to Bylaws (Changed to provide for triennial elections.)

1915 – Articles of Incorporation renewed.

1917 – Amendment to Articles (Board of Education established in place of the “Church Council”.)

1918 – Amendment to Articles (Church and College struck the word “Norwegian” from their name.)

1930 – Amendments to Bylaws (Board of Trustees become the “General Managers” of the College.) Revised wording of Articles (Increased power of the Board of Trustees and decreased power of the Church Council.)

1936 – Amendment to Article VII (Co-education.)

1950 – Amendment to Article III (Wording amended to reflect Church name change to “Evangelical Lutheran Church”) and Article VI (Officers of the Corporation and Trustees elected for one year terms instead of two year terms.) Amendment to Bylaws (Trustees should meet 4 times annually in Decorah.)

1958 – Amendment to Articles (restructure Articles and Bylaws in which governing body changed from Board of Trustees to Board of Regents.)

1962 – Amendment to Article VII (Well qualified Lutherans who are not members of the American Lutheran Church may not be excluded from candidacy for College President.)

1964 – Amendment to Bylaws (change in wording of paragraph VIII.)

1966 – Amendments to Bylaws (redefining officers’ titles and Paragraph VIII, restructure of faculty.)

1968 – Amendment to Article VII (Board of Regents elections and office tenure.)

1972 – Amendment to Bylaws (addition of IX (Indemnification of Regents and Officers) and extant IX becomes X.)

1974 – Amendments to Article V (Membership revisions) and Article VI (Meetings revisions). Amendments to Bylaws (delete paragraph 1.07 concerning Board of Regents management of the Norwegian-American Historical Museum and paragraph 1.08 becomes 1.07.)

1976 – Amendments to Article VI (wording re: meetings deleted and rewritten) and to Bylaws (wording re: meetings deleted, rewritten and revised.)

1978 – Amendment to Article VII (management and control paragraph added.)

1980 – Amendment to Bylaws (re: officers.)

1984 – Amendments to Article VII (Board of Regents members revised). Amendments to Bylaws (change the words “Chairman” and “Chairmen” to “Chair” and “Vice Chairman” to “Vice Chair”) and to Article VIII and Bylaws (deleted references to “he” and “his” and replaced it with gender neutral language. Amendment to Bylaws (replace “Faculty Senate” with “Faculty” and “Faculty Council”.)

1987 – Amendments to Article III, V, VI, VII, VIII, XIII and Bylaws (change “American Lutheran Church” to “Evangelical Lutheran Church of America”). Amendments to Articles V, VI, and to Bylaws (President of ALC to Bishop of ELCA.) Amendments to Article VII (“President of Iowa District” to “Bishop of Northeast Iowa Synod”), Article V (“Board of College and University Services” to “Board of the Division for Education), and Article VII (7.03, 7.06) and Bylaw (I 1.01, 1.03.)

1988 – Amendments to Article VII (re: management and control) and Article VIII (section 8.01 re: officers revised.) Change section numbers 7.03 to 7.04, 7.04 to 7.05, 7.05 to 7.06, and 7.06 -7.07. Amendment to Bylaws (Board of Regents revised) and (Secretary and Assistant Secretary.) Add new Bylaw VI (the Executive Committee) and VII (the Nominating Committee.) Change Bylaw VI to VIII, VII to IX, IX to XI, X to XII. Revise Bylaws section 4.01 and 4.02 and add 4.03.

1989 – Amendment to Article VII (management and control) and section 7.02 revised.

1991 – Amendments to Article XIII (amendments revised), Article VII (management and control) and Bylaws (amendments.)

1993 – Amendments to Bylaw VII (title revised to read “The Nominating and Board of Affairs Committee”. Revise section 7.01 (elections to the board), 7.02 (duties), Bylaw VI (Executive Committee elections and powers), and Bylaw I (Board of Regents elections.)

1995 – Amendments to Article V (change wording from general conventions to church wide assembly), Article VI (change wording from general conventions to church wide assembly.)

Bothne, Gisle, The Norwegian Luther College 1861-1897, (Decorah, 1897)
Jordahl, Leigh D and Kaasa, Harris E., Stability and Change: Luther College in Its Second Century (Decorah, 1986)
Luther College Semi-Centennial: 1861—1911 (Des Moines, 1911)
Nelson, David T., Luther College 1861-1961 (Decorah, 1961)
Norlie, O.M. et al, Luther College Through Sixty Years: 1861-1921 (Minneapolis, 1922)
Registrar, The Faculty Handbook, 1955, 1974, 1994 (Decorah, various dates)
Ylvisaker, J. Th., The Norwegian Luther College Decorah, Iowa: An Outline of Its History from 1861 to 1890 (Decorah, 1890)

Ghost Descriptions
There are several buildings at Luther College that are rumored to be haunted, but none are more well-known than the stories of “Gertrude” in Larsen Hall.
There have been claims of unusual occurrences in Larsen Hall for decades, and often the reason given for these anomalies is that the building is haunted. As one of the oldest (and oldest-looking) buildings on campus, Larsen Hall seems like a logical place for spawning ghost stories on campus.

The problem with the stories told about Larsen Hall, however, is that they are inconsistent with one another. “Gertrude,” the young girl who purportedly lingers in the building, is described by “witnesses” as anywhere from twelve years old to somewhere in her late teens, and her clothing is often said to be in the style of the 19th century. The main explanation as to her identity, however, describes her as a high school girl who wanted to attend Luther before women were admitted, and who died in 1918 when her bicycle was struck by an automobile.

No records of any such event occurring can be found, and additionally there are no records that can prove that anyone named Gertrude ever even existed in Decorah around the time of 1918.

Resources in the Luther College Archives

  • Restless Spirits Haunt Luther by Andrea Jennings, Chips October 27, 2005

The Beginning
The Preparatory Department at Luther College started with the college 1861 and continued until 1928.

Strengthening and Separation
Although there is very little information about the beginning of the Preparatory Department along with the beginning of the college itself, there was a clear strengthening of the program in the 1870s and 1880s. Originally the college was split into two Sextas, in which Sexta A were the more traditional college students and Sexta B contained those students with no high school education, aged 10-20 (Luther, 92). They needed the department at Luther College because there had been no public high school in the Decorah area. In the 1876-1877 school year however, the department began to separate itself from the higher college. One example of this lies with tuition. Students at Luther College, at this time, did not pay tuition but the students of the Preparatory Department were charged $30 for the first two years, $20 for the first year and $10 for the second year (Chips, 1888). By 1889 the separation was complete when Luther College became a six year institution, mostly because of the extensive language requirements. These six years were split with the Preparatory department as the lowest three were considered Prep and the higher three considered college (Luther, 145). Professor Herman W. Sheel was elected as the principal and a new organization was developed around the department (Luther, 145). Sheel was succeeded by Gisle Bothne (Luther, 145).

Rules, Class, and Teachers
As the students of the Preparatory Department were younger than those of the college students, they naturally had stricter rules. One such rule was a ban on Saturday night trips to town, as the students were considered too young and irresponsible for such an honor (Luther, 195). In terms of class, by 1891, the schedule had loosened up allowing for a more flexible study. Before, the classes had been regimented with very little room for elective work but with the new class schedule, they were allowed some decision making. Also at this time, the junior and senior classes were split to allow for smaller class sizes. However this split required for more teachers. Luther College President C. K. Preus, and President Oscar Olson, devised a new system for the teachers of the Preparatory Department. After the college graduation, certain high ability graduates would be hired immediately to start teaching in the Preparatory Department. If they taught well, they would soon be asked to become full-fledged professors (Stability, 63).

The Ending
By the 1920s, enrollment in the Preparatory Department had dwindled due to the rising number of public high schools. They were no longer making enough money to pay for the teachers and housing for all the students. By 1928 there were only two-dozen students left in the Preparatory Department and it was decided that this would be the last year (Stability, 63).

In 1921 the Luther College Preparatory Department had supplied the Norwegian church with over 500 pastors. This was the equivalent of how many students out of 18,000 high schools went on the become pastors (Chips, 1921). The incredible numbers show Luther College’s early dedication to church education beginning in the Preparatory Department through to the College graduate.

Luther College Archives

Nelson, David T., Luther College 1861-1961, Luther College Press, Decorah: 1961.
Jordahl, Leigh D. and Harris E. Kaasa, Stability and Change: Luther College in Its Second Century, Luther College Press, Decorah: 1986.
College Chips
Oct. 1888, pg 2
Sept. 1891, pg. 98
Oct. 1921, pg 285

Luther College has produced 8 Rhodes Scholars during the college’s history. They include:
1911 – JAO Larsen
1914 – David T. Nelson
1924 – Carl Strom
1951 – George Mohr
1959 – Anthony Preus
1985 – Mary Larson
2001 – Phillip Assmus
2012 – Georgianna Whiteley

First students at Luther
The first Black student to attend Luther College was Asibong Okon of Nigeria. He attended Luther College from 1951 to 1954 and graduated with majors in history and economics. However, it was not until 1964 that Luther College established an exchange program with traditionally Black institutions such as Philander Smith, Little Rock, Spelman and Fisk University.


Year Africa Bermuda/Bahamas African American
1969 0 0 42
1970 0 0 67
1971 0 0 84
1972 0 0 65
1973 2 4 52
1974 5 7 50
1975 3 10 36
1976 4 12 52
1977 5 10 42
1978 8 11 44
1979 11 13 44
1980 10 12 71
1981 15 10 53
1982 17 5 53
1983 15 2 40
1984 18 0 23
1985 12 0 17
1986 9 0 12
1987 9 1 22
1988 7 1 29
1989 12 1 0
1990 17 2 0
1991 17 4 0
1992 18 6 9
1993 20 7 7
1994 29 6 5
1995 35 7 5
1996 42 4 13
1997 35 3 13
1998 58 3 21
1999 61 3 20
2000 67 2 15
2001 83 5 15

The Nineteenth Century

1857 –October 10, 1857—the Norwegian Synod decided to establish an institution of higher learning with a Norwegian background in America, but first used Concordia Seminary in St. Louis (Missouri Synod) having a professorship there until there was enough money to start a college. The church council that made this decision met at Washington Prairie church. 1

1859Laur Larsen started his position as professor at Concordia Seminary on October 14, 1859. This is now recognized as Founder’s Day. 2

1861 –September Luther opens in Halfway Creek, Wis. 3 Beginning of the American Civil War.

1862 –September 8, the first classes were held in Decorah 4

1864 –June 30, cornerstone laid for the original Main building 5

1865 –Oct. 14, dedicated the first Main building, progression of the college 6; Luther was legally incorporated in Iowa 7; first student newspaper, Moderlandet, was published from 1865-66 8

1866 –First graduating class with eight members 9

1867Campus House was built by the congregations of Nils O. Brandt and later purchased by college 10

1869 –First organized musical ensemble: the Idun Quartette 11

1872 –College publishes first catalog, called Katalog for det norske Luther-college i Decorah, Iowa, 1861-1872. 12

1874 –Dec. 2, after new wing of Main built, the college bell is rung for first time. 13

1876 –First Lutheran was built–to be shared by the college and the FL congregation. Luther owned a half share of the property until 1930. 14

1878 –The college band was first organized and started to perform 15

1880 –Luther gets an alumni organization—the Luther College Alumni Forening which, David T. Nelson says, shows the Americanization of Luther as opposed to the Norwegian past 16

1883 –In 1877 the first orchestra started to form, and in 1883 it performed its first concert, and has been in existence ever since 17

1884College Chips 1884 founded 18

1886 –First concert band tour 19; beginning of intercollegiate athletics with baseball game of Luther vs. St. Olaf 20

1889 –May 19, the first Main Building was destroyed by fire 21

1890 –New Old Main Building was dedicated October 14. 22 The rebuilding of it in Decorah was strongly advocated for by Koren. It received a new bell from the same man who donated the previous bell, Bjorn Haatvedt (Edwards).

1892 — Luther College Athletic Association formed, and school colors established in the nineties 23

1896 –Luther College Boarding Club founded, and it lasts until 1931.24

1897 –“To Luther,” the college song, written 25
A New Century

1902C. K. Preus elected as the second president of Luther (LC61-61, p. 161, info. on his life, p.170 ff)

1903 –Basketball begins with the first intercollegiate basketball game against Upper Iowa (LC61-61, p. 205-206)

1905 –Sperati came to Luther; developed Concert Band and led many tours (LC61-61, p. 190)

1907 –October 13, 1907 Laur Larsen Hall dedicated. A dormitory, with space for laboratories and music.

1911 –Luther statue presented by pastors’ wives and women of Norwegian Synod in 1911 in honor of the 50th anniversary of the college (Luther College 1861-1961, p. 174); October 14, Luther’s endowment fund began, with an intital sum of $250,000 (LC61-61, p. 174)

1914 –Concert Band travels to Europe

1915 –Tuition was first charged (LC61-61, p. 178)

1916Loyalty Hall (LC61-61, p.175-176)

1920 –The Pioneer was first published (LC61-61, p. 198)

1921 –Luther Fight Song written in 1921 by Arthur J. Tolo ‘18 and N.G. Maakestad ‘21 (homecoming 2006); Koren Hall dedicated Oct. 14, 1921 (LC61-61, p. 176-177); 1921 Oscar L. Olson became president of Luther–first interim and then permanent. (LC61-61, p. 211-215); 1921 Luther College Bulletin was established (LC61-61, p. 220)

1925 –Norwegian-American Historical Museum was established in 1925 and grew with gifts from Norway and moved downtown in 1932 (LC61-61, p. 225-227); magna, summa, and cum laude introduced at Luther; orientation course 1927 (LC61-61, p. 238)

1926 –KWLC got license (LC61-61, p. 220); October, Preus Gymnasium built(LC61-61, p. 218)

1928 –Luther College News Service organized (LC61-61, p. 220)

1929 –January 12,Luther College bought Jewell farm (360 acres) for $60,000 (Luther College 1861-1961, p. 218-19)

1930 –The school was officially called Norwegian Lutheran College until it was changed in the Articles of Incorporation to Luther College (LC61-61, p. 60)

1931 –Modernization of curriculum, drop[ed classical requirements (Luther College 1861-1961, p. 244); athletics was reorganized to be under the control of a board, not students (LC61-61, p. 238); 1931-1932—”watershed between the old and the new college.” Olson was forced out as president, but first he got a new curriculum to be passed—this curriculum broke the ties with the classical curriculum of the past. In 1932 Olson also pressed, unsuccessfully, for coeducation. (Stability and Change, p. 9)

1932 –Olson resigned as president in 1932, but he kept teaching English until 1952; in 1951 he was given an honorary Doctor of Letters; 51 years is longest teaching service in college history (LC61-61, p. 249–here there is also an analysis of his contributions to Luther); Ove J.H. Preus president of Luther College 1861-1961; years of financial difficulty; August 1, The Decorah Junior College for Girls opened (Luther college, 1861-1961, p. 257)

1933 –1933 Decorah Junior College operates jointly with Luther. There are two student bodies, but they share everything at Luther. (LC61-61, p. 259); first summer session held 1933 (and it was coed) (LC61-61, p. 259); March 13, Luther College Women’s Club established (LC 61-61, p. 264)

1934 –Financial troubles finally begin to improve (LC61-61, p. 263)

1935 –Decorah College for Women incorporated (homecoming 2005)

1936 –June, new Articles were passed. Allowed for Co-Education and more autonomy for the college. (Luther College 1861-1961, p. 268-269); Qualley the first vice president (1936) and first dean (1946) (LC 61-61, p. 288)

1938 –The student canteen was enlarged and became the Luther College Bookshop (LC61-61, p. 278)

1940 –First woman to edit Chips was Louise Helen (Nelson) Knapp–January 1940; first woman to edit The Pioneer was Louise Helen (Nelson) Knapp in 1940 (LC 61-61, p. 297)

1942 –May 31, old Main burned down (LC 61-61, p. 280)

A New Start

1944 –Luther further expanded its curriculum and created a new mission statement that made it a college aimed at broadly educating everyone in the liberal and Christian tradition (1948) (LC 61-61, p. 290-291).

1945 –First international students came from Norway in 1945 (LC 61-61, p. 298)

1946 –Qualley is the first dean of Luther College (homecoming 2006)

1948 –Preus retired on June 30. (LC 61-61, p. 301-302); July 1, 1948 J. Wilhelm Ylvisaker ‘21 was elected the fifth president of Luther (LC 61-61, p. 303)

1950 –First wrestling season 1950-1951

1951 –Dorian festivals begin (homecoming 2006); Dorian festivals for high school students—Band, April 25, 1950; Choral, 1951; Piano and Organ, 1956 (LC 61-61, p. 336)

1952 –New Main (LC 61-61, p. 305) finished in September; Varsity Band established (LC61-61, p. 335)

1954 –First VP in charge of development—Arthur Ole Davidson (S and C, p. 118)

1955 –Men’s cross country begins (LC61-61, p. 339); Olson Hall finished in September (LC 61-61, p. 306)

1956 –August 31, Luther College Press is established (so that it can print the lectures from the five-year series, Martin Luther Lectures, which led into a celebration of Luther’s centennial by examining Luther’s relevance in today’s world) (LC61-61, p. 323-324)

1957 –Faculty Handbook. It formalized and clarified things pertaining to the role of the faculty. (LC61-61, p. 320)

1958Brandt Hall was completed in 1949-1950 second semester–east wing finished in 1958 (LC 61-61, p. 305); the governing board was named the Board of Regents, and they were awarded more power over the college (LC 61-61, p. 319)

1959 –February founding of student congregation (LC 61-61, p. 332)

1961 –Valders and the Union both built in 1961 (LC 61-61, p. 305, Stability and Change 131-133); celebrations for the centennial of the college (Stability and Change, p. 21-24); November 2, C.K. Preus Gymnasium burned (S and C, p. 125-126). There were many effects. One was that daily chapel was not longer required because there was not enough room for everyone in Valders; publication of David T. Nelson’s book Luther College, 1861-1961.

1962 –Feb. 8, 1962 social dancing was no longer prohibited at Luther. First college dance: Homecoming Ball 1962 (Stability and Change, p. 44, 45); David T. Nelson the acting president beginning August 1. (S and C, p. 51); Farwell elected president in August then inaugurated May 1. (S and C, p. 55-56); The Centennial Union opened. It was the first air-conditioned building on campus. (S and C, p. 133); a new concept for the campus design. Designed mainly with the Wickstead firm of Chicago, the plan was finished by 1962. The main deviation was the controversial decision to put the field house on lower campus. (Stability and Change, p. 128-129)

1963 –July, Qualley resigns as dean (S and C, p. 57)

1964 –John Vernon Swenson Linnell became Luther’s second dean (S and C, p. 60); curriculum change introduced January Term (Stability and Change, p. 92-93, analysis p. 93-94). Also introduced the Freshman Core Program (ended in 1972)— “establish[ed] a definite precedent for a common, humanities-oriented freshman program. (S and C p. 95); Luther College Field House opened (Stability and Change, p. 133-135); Ylvisaker Hall opened—a dorm for freshman men (Stability and Change, p. 135); Vesterheim was established as a non-profit corporation (S and C, p. 151)

1966 –Upward Bound starts 1966 (homecoming 2006); Articles of Incorporation changed so that teachers not of the Lutheran faith could be more easily hired (SandC, p. 65); Dieseth opened, one of the Regents Towers (S and C, p. 136)

1968 –Black Student Union was founded. The previous years had seen a large increase in black American students at Luther due to heavy recruiting. (Stability and Change, p. 102); Miller dorm opened, the second of the Regents Towers (S and C, p. 136)

1969Preus Library dedicated (Stability and Change, p. 137-139); May 19, contract was signed that split Vesterheim from Luther (Stability and Change, p. 160)

1971 –Married student housing constructed (Stability and Change, p. 136)

1972 –Ruth Mostrom became first female vice president (S and C, p. 57); first year of Nottingham program (S and C, p. 109)

1973 –A time-sharing computer system introduced to Luther (Stability and Change, p. 104)

1975 –King Olaf lays cornerstone of Center for Faith and Life in 1975 (homecoming 2005)

1977 –A new curriculum was introduced, most notable adding Paideia (S and C, p. 99); Center for Faith and Life was dedicated on October 16. (Stability and Change, p. 146. See p. 139-147 for discussion on building it.)

1982 –Luther got a Phi Beta Kappa chapter (Stability and Change, p. 101); Jenson Noble Hall of Music was dedicated (ground was broken on October 9, 1981). The last building in a large building program that included the library, towers dorms, the union, the CFL, and the field house. (S and C, p. 148)

1985 –Men’s cross country wins Luther’s first NCAA Division III championship (homecoming 2005); Mary Stella Larson is first Luther woman to win a Rhodes scholarship (S and C, p. 108)

1987 –Foreign language houses established; Luther’s endowment passes $12-million mark; The all-weather track at Carlson Stadium is completed; Koren Hall renovation begins

1988 –O.W. “Pip” Qualley, professor emeritus of classics, dies at age 91; Koren Hall rededicated following renovation; All-weather track dedicated

1989 –Construction of the Regents Center and Farwell Hall begins

1992 –New greenhouse and undergraduate research facility at Valders Hall of Science dedicated; Five-year, $30-million “Environment for Excellence” campaign begins (campaign nets more than $42-million)

1993 –F.W. Olin Foundation awards $5.9-million dollar grant for construction of a new building for economics and business, mathematics and computer science, the Olin Building; Luther College Concert Band tours Japan; Inaugural Jenson Medal awarded to Anjela Shutts ‘93

1994 –Construction of F.W. Olin Building begins

1995 –President H. George Anderson elected bishop of ELCA; David Roslien ‘59 named interim president; King Harold V and Queen Sonya of Norway visit the college; Environment for Excellence Campaign reaches $42-million mark; F.W. Olin Building dedicated

1996 –-Jeffrey D. Baker named eighth president of Luther; Enrollment tops 2,400; Overholt Human Anatomy Laboratory dedicated

1997 –Turena Johnson ’97 wins NCAA Div. III National Cross Country title; is a five-time NCAA champion; Kent Finanger ’54 retires from coaching after 46 years as a player and coach at Luther; Dante’s is closed; Marty’s is opened

1998 -–Luther kicks off Leadership for a New Century campaign; key components are the Center for the Arts and the Noble Addition to Jenson Noble Hall of Music; More than 1,400 Luther alumni return to campus to celebrate Weston Noble’s 50 years of service to the college; Turena Johnson ’97 named Honda Woman Athlete of the year; Eric Cutler ’99 wins Metropolitan Opera National Audition

1999 –Ground is broken for Baker Village; President Jeffrey D. Baker died; Richard L. Torgerson named Luther’s ninth president; Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon visits Luther; Norse women capture IIAC all-sports trophy

The Next Millennium

2000 –President Richard L. Torgerson inaugurated; Baker Village dedicated; Roslien Woodlands for Outdoor Education, Recreation and Biological Research named for David Roslien ’59; -Betty Hoff ’60 earns 500th career victory as Luther’s softball coach; Russel R. Rulon ’58 Endowed Chair in Biology established with $1.13-million in gifts from alumni

2001 –Legends Fitness for Life Center dedicated; Ground is broken for the Center for the Arts; Phillip Assmus ’01 becomes Luther’s seventh Rhodes Scholar; Betty Hoff ‘60 named the first Nena Amundson ‘56 Distinguished Professor; Brandt Hall renovated

2002 –-60,000 square feet Center for the Arts opens; Jenson Noble Hall of Music, the Weston H. Noble Recital Hall, and the Bahe-Mostrom Lobby are dedicated. Luther adopts new logo; Ylvisaker Hall is renovated. Leadership for a New Century Campaign closes with more than $63.5 million in gifts, pledges and deferred gifts; Johanna Olson ’01, named Luther’s 25th NCAA postgraduate scholar


  1. Nelson, 1961, p. 33
  2. Nelson, 1961, pp. 38-39
  3. Nelson, 1961, p. 49
  4. Nelson, 1961, p. 54
  5. Nelson, 1961, p. 58
  6. Nelson, 1961, p. 65ff
  7. Nelson, 1961, p. 102
  8. Nelson, 1961
  9. Nelson, 1961, p. 98
  10. Nelson, 1961, p. 93
  11. Nelson, 1961, p. 118
  12. Nelson, 1961, p. 113
  13. Nelson, 1961, p. 94
  14. Nelson, 1961, pp. 94-95, 219; Homecoming 2006
  15. Nelson, 1961, p. 118
  16. Nelson, 1961, pp. 141-142
  17. Nelson, 1961, pp. 118, 156
  18. Nelson, 1961, p. 154
  19. Nelson, 1961, p. 156; Homecoming 2006
  20. Nelson, 1961, p. 157
  21. Nelson, 1961, p. 133
  22. Nelson, 1961, p. 136
  23. Nelson, 1961, p. 160
  24. Nelson, 1961, p. 140
  25. Nelson, 1961, p. 160

Nelson, David T., Luther College 1861-1961, Luther College Press, Decorah: 1961.

Jordahl, Leigh D. and Harris E. Kaasa, Stability and Change: Luther College in Its Second Century, Luther College Press, Decorah: 1986.

Luther College Archives

Tuition History
During the early years of Luther College their aim was to prepare young men for theological study. Because of this goal, the college thought it best to provide an education at as little a cost as possible. The Preparatory Department students were charged tuition while the church paid for college classes. This changed in 1915 when the college began charging tuition for their college students.

Starting in 1896, the students at Luther College began a Boarding Club to feed their fellow classmates. The charge was $10 for the academic year. That price slowly rose over the years until the college took control of the payments in 1931. The 1960’s marked the official end of the Boarding Club.

Tuition Statistics

Year Comprehensive Fee Tuition Board Room
1882-1888 $20 first year prep department, $10 second year prep, free for college classes $70
1888-1889 $20 first year prep dep’t, $10 second year prep, free for college classes $62
1890-1891 $20 prep dep’t $62
1891-1896 $20 prep dep’t $72
1896-1901 $20 prep dep’t $10 Boarding Club $12
1901-1911 $20 prep dep’t $10 Boarding Club $12, $.10 electric/week
1911-1915 $20 prep dep’t $10 Boarding Club $12, $4 electric
1915-1917 $20 college classes $10 Boarding Club $12, $4 electric
1917-1918 $20 college $15 Boarding Club $12. $4 electric
1918-1919 $40 $15 Boarding Club $36
1919-1922 $60 $20 Boarding Club $40
1922-1924 $75 $15 Boarding Club $45
1924-1926 $125 $15 Boarding Club $45
1926-1927 $125 $15 Boarding Club $50
1927-1928 $125 $16 Boarding Club $50
1928-1929 $150 $18 Boarding Club $50
1929-1930 $150 $4/week $50
1930-1931 $150 $74 first semester, $70 second $50
1931-1935 $150 $76 first semester, $68 second $50
1935-1940 $150 $80 first semester, $73 second $50
1940-1941 $150 $80 first semester, $73 second $25-$35 per semester
1941-1942 $150 $85 first semester, $77 second $25-$35 per semester
1942-1943 $150 $85 per semester $25-$35 per semester
1943-1944 $250 $85 per semester $25-$35 per semester
1944-1945 $250 $90 per semester $30-$40 per semester
1945-1946 $250 $100 per semester $40-$50 per semester
1946-1947 $300 $110 per semester $40-$50 per semester
1947-1948 $320 $140 per semester $40-$50 per semester
1948-1950 $330 $140 per semester $50-$90 per semester
1950-1951 $380 $140 per semester $70 per semeseter
1951-1953 $400 $140 per semester $70 per semester
1954-1956 $400 $150 per semester $75 per semester
1956-1958 $450 $150 per semester $80 per semester
1958-1960 $550 $170 per semester $100-$120 per semester
1960-1962 $650 $190 per semester $110-$130 per semester
1962-1964 $1,595 academic year – includes tuition, room and board
1964-1966 $1,750
1966-1968 $1,300 academic year $765 academic year (room and board)
1968-1970 $1,525 $835 (room and board)
1970-1972 $1,735 $910 (room and board)
1972-1974 $2,110 $950 (room and board)
1974-1975 $3,275
1975-1976 $3,650
1976-1977 $3,825
1977-1978 $3,985
1978-1979 $4,235
1979-1980 $4,900
1980-1981 $5,550
1981-1982 $6,200
1982-1983 $6,900
1983-1984 $7,500
1984-1985 $8,000
1985-1986 $8,600
1986-1987 $9,100
1987-1988 $9,750
1998-1989 $10,500
1989-1990 $11,700
1990-1991 $12,850
1991-1992 $13,900
1992-1993 $15,000
1993-1994 $15,900
1994-1995 $16,800
1995-1996 $17,700
1996-1997 $18,550
1997-1998 $19,330
1998-1999 $20,275
1999-2000 $21,100
2000-2001 $21,994
2001-2002 $23,300
2003-2005 $25,700
2005-2006 $28,800
2007-2008 $28,840 $2,240 $2,260
2008-2009 $30,920 $2,420 $2,420

Nelson, David T., Luther College 1861-1961, Luther College Press, Decorah: 1961.
Luther College Catalog, 1882-2008

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Contact Information

Hayley Jackson
College Archivist

Preus Library 310
Upper Floor
Luther College
700 College Drive

The Archives is open for research from 1:00-4:30, Monday-Friday, and by appointment.

Phone: 563-387-1805