Luther College announces endowed professorships and endowed chairs

October 9, 2020

Each fall, Luther College awards endowed professorships and endowed chairs to honor Luther faculty members whose teaching careers and accomplishments have exemplified the philosophy and values of the liberal arts, enriched the intellectual life of students, enhanced the academic character of the institution and demonstrated leadership in the teaching profession. 

"Created by the generous gifts of those who love Luther College, these positions and the outstanding teaching scholars in them are provided funds for special projects. Every endowed chair, professorship or center has been established to further the mission of the college, and each reminds us of the college's commitment to a life of discovery, reflection and service," said Kevin Kraus, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college. "Today we pause to celebrate the dedication and accomplishments of three Luther faculty members. As they assume these new leadership roles, we look forward to the great things they will achieve for the good of this community."

            Jane Hawley '87, professor of dance, will serve as the next Nena Amundson Distinguished Professor. 

The Nena Amundson Distinguished Professorship honors the late Nena Amundson, a 1956 graduate of Luther College who taught physical education and coached women's athletics for more than 40 years, primarily at California Lutheran University. A pioneer in collegiate women's sports programs, Amundson provided an estate gift to fund the endowment for the Luther wellness program. The Amundson Professorship Award provides a faculty stipend, a student stipend and funding for a research project. The award is competitive, based on the selection committee's evaluation of project proposals, particularly those focusing on health and wellness issues for women.

Hawley's Amundson project, Sensing Identity, will apply practices from her Movement Fundamentals research as a focal point for listening to the body while identifying personal practices for self-care, selfhood and well-being.

            "Receiving the Nena Amundson Distinguished Professorship offers an exciting opportunity to highlight body/mind integrated learning and becoming," says Hawley. "I am grateful to work alongside the students to further understand how dance integrates with our overall health and wellbeing."

Hawley's Amundson project launched in September and involved more than 20 students. This embodied research will continue both on and off campus over the next two years.

            Andrew Last '97, director of choral activities and associate professor of music, will serve as the next Weston Noble Endowed Chair in Music. For more than 50 years, Weston Noble '43, professor emeritus of music, taught, directed and conducted at Luther, influencing thousands of students, including Last. 

"Few teachers have had more of an impact on my teaching career than Weston Noble," said Last. "Each and every day that I stand before Nordic Choir, I feel his spirit in the choir room. It is my hope that through this endowment, Weston's passion for community, excellence and inclusion will be shared through educational and creative opportunities."

Established by Ervin and Phyllis Johnson, this endowed chair recognizes the value of Christian higher education and the quality of the academic and music programs provided by Luther College. The Noble Chair will enrich the education of students at Luther College and bring national attention to the college and its programs.

            Maren Johnson, associate professor of Nordic Studies and director of the Torgerson Center for Nordic Studies, will serve as the first Tomson Family Endowed Chair in Norwegian Language and Modern Nordic Culture. This position serves as the academic foundation of the Richard L. and Judith Torgerson Center for Nordic Studies, providing oversight for academic and co-curricular programs, preserving existing partnerships and creating new collaborative initiatives with educational institutions and scholars in Norway.  

            This endowed chair was established thanks to the generosity of O. Jay and Patricia A. Tomson, longtime friends of the college, and Marti (Tomson) Rodamaker, regent emerita, and in recognition of Luther's sesquicentennial and more than 150 years of treasured ties to Norway.

            "The Tomson family's gift of this endowed chair cements the role of the study of Norwegian language and Nordic culture at Luther College," said Johnson. "I am excited for the call of this position to continue to strengthen the ties between Luther and the Nordic region today to find points of collaboration for study and research for our students, faculty and staff."

            Luther College is home to more than 1,800 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 60+ academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at