Dr. Jenifer K. Ward inaugurated as the 11th President of Luther College

November 5, 2019

On Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019 Dr. Jenifer K. Ward was inaugurated as the 11th President of Luther College. The Center for Faith and Life was filled with President Ward's family, friends, current and former colleagues, Luther students, alumni, Luther faculty and staff, elected representatives and Decorah residents.

The event was live-streamed, click here to watch. 

Delegates from 40 institutions of higher education were present to honor President Ward and display their support by taking part in the formal procession as were ten Decorah community representatives, two dozen current and former regents, two former Luther presidents and three former interim presidents.  

College Pastor Mike Blair offered the opening invocation followed by a welcome message from Wendy Davidson '92, chairperson of the Board of Regents. Davidson expressed thanks to those who participated in the presidential search process. She also emphasized the importance of the president's role during a time of increasing complexity in higher education and it's clear she believes President Ward is the right person for the job.

"In today's world where higher education and global societies are rapidly evolving, she is an authentic and servant leader who is committed to the enduring value of a Luther College education, and importantly, an education in the Lutheran tradition," said Davidson.

Rev. Brian T. Johnson with the Helge Center for Mission and Ministry at Valparaiso University has known President Ward for nearly 25 years. He offered an inaugural reflection during which he recalled a time talking with President Ward's father.

"He once told me at the farm, 'that Jenifer is a thinker and a doer. She can tell you everything there is to know about the wonder of a cornbread skillet and then make the tastiest cornbread you ever laid eyes on. She has steady imagination coupled with seasoned skill.' He would be right proud of you," said Johnson.

After multiple greetings from constituents and an inaugural hymn, J. Robert Paulson '78, the vice chairperson on the Board of Regents and chair of the Presidential Search Committee, presented President Ward to be inducted into the office. Bishop Michael L. Burk, a member of the Board of Regents, made it official by completing the investiture.

The theme of the inauguration was "Always Becoming," a phrase President Ward is especially fond of and mentioned in her presidential response.

"For me, a fascination with the phrase "always becoming" underscores my scholarship, which focuses on adaptation, as well as my approach to leadership, which involves embracing questions, uncertainty, and forced detours with a sense of adventure. It assumes that I, too, am always becoming, and that conversation and collaboration are the steady, yet moving, state of forward momentum for me and for the institution I have been called to lead," said President Ward.   

  President Ward drew upon examples that emphasized the need for questions and collaboration rather than the answers themselves.

"But not having answers and certainty did not and must not mean inaction. At every triumphant moment in Luther College's history"”the successful completion of a new building, a clean audit, a winning season on the field, a Christmas at Luther with standing ovations, the publication of a faculty member's new book"”it was not the answers that represented triumph. It was the practice of rolling up one's sleeves, questioning, slogging, revising, imagining, hoping, and yes, trembling"”to live in the becoming and to embrace the conversation with the unknown."

To view the president's full response click here.