Contact Information

Lydia Slattery
Media Relations Specialist

Phone: 563-387-1417

Sustainability Class Drives Campus Improvements

Blue house on a sunny day surrounded by trees.

The Jefferson House on Luther’s campus. Thanks to students’ recommendations and the Gregg’s gift, the house now has an electric heat pump water heater and a new roof to enhance energy efficiency.

DECORAH, IOWA—An environmental studies class about household energy has turned into a practical energy-saving project for the Luther College campus, thanks to the generosity of two parents of Luther alumni.

The class, “Bringing Sustainable Energy Home,” was designed and taught by Professor Laura Peterson. It brought students from a mix of majors and class years into the January Term course. 

Since J-Term courses only last three and half weeks, the students received a basic overview in home energy systems to understand concepts such as home heating and how solar panels work. Peterson had students talk to their parents about their utility bills and home heating appliances, so students could get a family perspective on the factors that contribute to energy costs. 

“Most students have never paid an energy bill before, so this was a chance to introduce them to real-world concepts,” Peterson said.

Once students understood the basics of home energy, they dove straight into analyzing campus housing. Students looked at three student campus houses – The Jefferson House, the Prairie Rock House and the Spring House – fully analyzing two and analyzing one for potential solar panels on the roof. 

After assessing different factors such as cost-effectiveness and student comfort, the class came up with several basic recommendations, including a proposal to switch from a natural gas water heater to an electric heat pump water heater and install roof-top solar arrays. 

Three people standing in front of a football field on a rainy day.

From left to right: Linda Gregg, Laura Peterson and Leon Gregg on Luther’s campus

Leon and Linda Gregg of Rochester, Minnesota, donated the class’s budget for the project, so that student recommendations could be implemented where feasible and will help Luther reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. Both of the couple’s sons graduated from Luther and they want to keep giving back to students. 

“We like to help students,” Leon Gregg said. “We want kids to get practical experience and support energy efficiency, so this class seemed like a good use of our gift.”

The Jefferson House received a new electric heat pump water heater and a new roof this summer to enhance energy efficiency. 

“I’m so grateful for the donation because it lended that air of reality to students,” Peterson said. “Luther can actually implement the recommendations thanks to the generosity of the Greggs.” 

During the class, students were divided into teams to examine the campus houses. One team looked at basic energy efficiency, analyzing campus houses for improvements in insulation and weatherization. Another team looked at the potential for solar panels on the roofs of the houses. The third team looked at switching from natural gas appliances to electric heat pump appliances as a way to reach carbon neutrality. 

“We are grateful to the Greggs who are willing not only to invest in the future of Luther students, but the future of Luther itself,” said Mary Duvall, vice president for development. “Leon and Linda have supported sustainability efforts at Luther in the past, so this class seemed like the perfect opportunity for them to see the direct impact of their generosity.”

Peterson plans to teach the class next J-Term with the same principles but looking at different campus houses.

Riley Marble, who graduated in May with a degree in environmental studies, said he enjoyed the work of learning about home energy, a topic he was unfamiliar with until taking the class. 

“This class started off as a requirement, but I really ended up enjoying it,” Marble said. “I learned a lot about practical home energy.” 

About Luther College

At Luther College in beautiful Decorah, Iowa, students explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 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

Contact Information

Lydia Slattery
Media Relations Specialist

Phone: 563-387-1417