Luther College receives $10 million gift from Michael and Nicole Gerdin for athletics and wellness center renovations
DECORAH, IOWA – Luther College announced today the commitment of a historic $10 million gift from Michael and Nicole Gerdin and the Gerdin Charitable Foundation. This is the largest individual gift in the college’s 162-year history, which will serve as the lead gift toward the expansion and renovation of the Regents Center, home to Norse athletics and the center for sports and recreation at Luther College.
“Today it’s my absolute joy and distinct privilege to announce this transformational gift to Luther College,” President Jenifer K. Ward said. “This support is not only historic, it speaks to the strength of Luther’s reputation as a fine Iowa college destination and to our potential for future success.”
The Chairman, President and CEO of Heartland Express in North Liberty, Iowa, Gerdin is a 1992 graduate of Luther who studied management and was a member of the Norse men’s basketball team. Starting his career as a teenager at the company his father founded, Gerdin moved up the ranks at Heartland to lead the firm, mirroring Heartland’s rise into one of North America’s largest truckload transportation and logistics companies.
“I wanted to play college basketball, and I wanted to go to a place that had a good business school. I kept coming back to Luther,” Gerdin said when describing his college decision process in the announcement Monday morning. “I talked to President Ward about what this upgrade could mean for Luther and the whole Decorah community. It is time for Luther.”
In recognition of this commitment, the facility will be renamed the Gerdin Fieldhouse for Athletics and Wellness.
“We want this project to embody that spirit of bringing all of campus together,” Ward said. “While the Regents Center is home to many Norse athletic teams as a training and competition venue, it is also heavily utilized by students, faculty, staff, and community members for recreation and wellness. This investment by the Gerdins and the Gerdin Charitable Foundation not only touches Luther, but contributes to the vitality of Decorah and all of northeast Iowa.”
“This is so incredibly exciting for all of us, and we are beyond grateful to Mike and his family for believing in us and this special place,” Athletic Director Renae Hartl said. “Here at Luther, students are at the heart of all we do, and these gifts are really about them. Our campus becomes their home for four years, and we work hard to provide an environment where we exercise our minds in classes and labs and we stress and push and exercise our bodies as part of overall wellness and a strong tradition of NCAA Division III athletics.”
Aside from serving as the headquarters for the Luther Norse athletic department, the center also houses facilities used by the entire college, including the campus’ student, faculty and staff fitness facility, the college’s aquatics center, and the recently renovated indoor track, tennis courts, and flexible usage space of the Robert and Ann Naslund Sports and Recreation Center. Among the highlights in the preliminary plans for the Gerdin Fieldhouse are a new entrance space for the public, a team meeting space open for use by all teams, renovation of the locker rooms, and a new common area and study space for the 21 Norse athletic teams.
Originally constructed in 1963, the current Regents Center is over 200,000 square feet, and will become one of the largest renovation projects in the college’s history.
The Gerdin gift comes just weeks after the announcement of another significant individual gift with $2 million from Dennis and Suzanne Birkestrand to renovate and rename the court inside the Regents Center to the Birkestrand Family Court.
“These gifts of support from our alumni show remarkable confidence in the future of Luther College,” Ward said. “The recent investments in Luther by our graduates are symbolic of their journeys, and they call us toward our future. Mike and Dennis came to Luther in different generations, but they both received a broad-based education that grounded them in the ability to adapt and succeed. They share the same common thread of hard work up through the ranks, building their companies and careers, and now giving back so the next generation can benefit from that same Luther experience.”
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 luther.edu.