Remembering Rick

In October 2022, we lost former president Rick Torgerson, who died on October 30. He served two terms at Luther, from 1999 to 2013. Those of us lucky to know him will never forget him—nor the ways his legacy continues to shape Luther College. Here, we outline some of the lasting impacts he’s had on this remarkable place.

“He taught me that knowledge and administrative skills only get you so far as a leader. These qualities have to be anchored in trusted relationships and the strength of community. Rick and Judy strengthened Luther by modeling openness, warmth and interest in other people’s lives.”

—Karen Martin-Schramm, former assistant to the president

“Rick was extremely engaging—warm, friendly, and eager to hear everyone’s stories. This deepened the bond between our alumni, parents, and friends, which in turn strengthened all our programs. Over and over I witnessed how much Rick valued his time with our alumni, creating many meaningful relationships that helped build a better Luther College.”

—Sherry (Braun) Alcock ’82, executive director of alumni relations

Photo of former Luther president Rick Torgerson with his wife, Judy, walking on the Luther campus

Rick Torgerson and his wife, Judy, continue to impact Luther College.

Fiscal Health

Torgerson completed three major fundraising campaigns at Luther: Leadership for a New Century raised $63.5 million, Higher Calling Campaign raised $93.3 million, Sesquicentennial Fund raised $57 million. Total value of Luther's endowment on June 1, 1999 was $43.6 million and on June 1, 2013, at the end of Torgerson's presidency, it was $131.2 million.

I think most of us have some notion, some philanthropic dream. We want to do good, there’s a desire to help, and so people respond to opportunities to fulfill their philanthropic dreams. . . . Fundraising isn’t about meeting needs—it’s about creating opportunity.

Rick Torgerson


During the Torgerson years, Luther:

  • Pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 | Luther is on track to achieve this goal, currently at 72.2 percent carbon neutral
  • Erected a 1.6mW wind turbine | Generates 3.5 million kW/yr, about 30% of campus consumption
  • Installed its first solar field, the largest in Iowa at the time | Luther now has six solar arrays, supplying 2.2 million kW/yr
  • Became a charter member of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment |
    Today, Luther ranks #4 in the nation among baccalaureate institutions on the 2022 AASHE Sustainable Campus Index
  • Committed to sourcing more local foods, using more electric/hybrid/biodiesel vehicles, and adopting LEED silver standards for all new campus construction
  • Founded the Center for Sustainable Communities
Photo of a large solar array

Sustainability, including integrating solar power, was a hallmark of Rick Torgerson's presidency at Luther.

“Rick liked to say that Luther should be a ‘model not a mirror’ for society, and nowhere is this more true than in the lasting legacy of his leadership on climate action and sustainability.

Jon Jensen ’89
inaugural and current director of the Center for Sustainable Communities


In addition to major additions and renovations, Torgerson had the foresight to consider the long-term care of Luther’s physical plant.

Under Torgerson

Luther built:

  • Center for the Arts
  • Sampson Hoffland Laboratories
  • Legends Fitness Center
  • Aquatic Center
  • Bentdahl Commons

Luther made major additions and renovations to:

  • Valders Hall of Science
  • Dahl Centennial Union
  • Jenson-Noble Hall of Music
  • Loyalty Hall
  • all residence halls
  • central campus green areas and roadways
Photo of three students walking outside Sampson Hoffland Laboratories

Luther College experienced a major facilities expansion under President Rick Torgerson.

He helped create annual budgets for capital renewal that have continued, allowing Facilities to attack deferred maintenance needs that directly and indirectly impact students’ campus experiences. His ability to listen and take action on campus needs will have a long-lasting impact on our students, faculty, and staff.

Jay Uthoff
director of facilities

Celebration of Life

President Torgerson was remembered on Nov. 19, 2022, at a Celebration of Life at Normandale Lutheran Church in Edina, Minn. Pastor Paul Pettersen shared the following remarks.

“When Rick entered your life, you hung onto your hat and you looked for a post in a windstorm, because you were about to go for a ride. Judy, we certainly, sincerely don’t quite know how you did it!”

“Rick Torgerson approached YOU. He didn’t wait for you to show up—he went out and FOUND you. And he likely already saw in you gifts and power that you didn’t even know you had. And he called them forth from you with a vengeance, challenging every ounce of your being to rise up and come alongside.”

“When Rick Torgerson takes up a mantle, the earth shifts just a bit on its axis. And then things start to move—at least inside of me, for having known him, and inside of you for having known him. Inside of countless people who saw that look on his face and heard that gravelly distress in his voice. And you were his companions on life’s journey, for he etched his spirit into you, perhaps in the very first encounter, or across the country on a phone call, or in a restaurant as you drew up a building plan on a napkin.”

Watch the full service on the Normandale Lutheran Church YouTube Channel

Save the Date: Friday, April 28, 2023

Celebration of Life for former president Rick Torgerson
Luther College campus
More details at