Luther College (Iowa)

Luther College (Iowa)

Infobox University
name = Luther College

established = 1861
motto = Soli Deo Gloria
"Glory to God Alone"
Verbum Dei Manet In Aeternum
"The Word of God endures forever"
type = Private
endowment = $119.3 million (Dec. 2007) [ [ "A Higher Calling: The Campaign for Luther College" 2008 Campaign Report] ]
president = Richard L. Torgerson
city = Decorah
state = Iowa
country = USA
students = 2,550
faculty = 700 (181 full time)cite web|url= |title=Quick Facts |publisher=Luther College |accessdate=2008-09-15]
campus = 1,000 acres
colors = Blue and White
nickname = Norse
affiliations = Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
website =

Luther College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college located in Decorah, Iowa, USA. Founded in 1861 by Norwegian immigrants, Luther remains affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Luther College enrolled 2,476 students representing 38 states and 44 countries in 2007-2008. The college confers the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 40 majors, as well as offering several additional minors, pre-professional programs, and certificate programs. Luther College has one of seven Phi Beta Kappa chapters in Iowa.


The path to founding Luther College began on October 10, 1857, when the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church (NELC) decided to create a college to supply ministers for Norwegian congregations in the Upper Midwest. Until the college was completed, students would study at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. On October 14, 1859, the Rev. Peter Laurentius (Laur.) Larsen was appointed professor to the Norwegian students at Concordia by the NELC.

Upon the closing of the seminary in April 1861, at the start of the Civil War, the NELC decided to open its own college that fall in a former parsonage at Halfway Creek, Wisconsin, just north of La Crosse, Wisconsin and close to present day Holmen, Wisconsin. On September 1, 1861, classes officially began with an enrollment of 16. The following year classes moved to Decorah, Iowa, with NELC Pastor Ulrik Vilhelm Koren successfully arranging the college's relocation and permanent settlement.

It did not take long for Luther to build an exceptional music program. In 1905, Dr. Carlo A. Sperati, an 1888 graduate of Luther, became the music director of the college and developed the Luther College Concert Band, founded in 1878, on the model of the wind ensemble pioneered by John Philip Sousa. Under Sperati, the band undertook several tours of Europe, their first in 1914, earning international acclaim for their musical talent. Sperati remained on the faculty until his death in 1945.

In 1932, Luther College dropped its mandatory study of the classics and fully embraced the modern concept of the liberal arts education. The 1930s marked another milestone in the college's history with its decision to become coeducational, which happened in 1936 due primarily to financial reasons. During the 1960s Luther again experienced significant change with the construction of several new campus buildings and the adoption of a 4-1-4 semester schedule.

In 1964, Luther's museum collection became separate from the college and was established as the Norwegian-American Museum. Now known as Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, it is the largest and most comprehensive museum in the United States devoted to a single immigrant group.


Located in the Oneota Valley, Luther's convert|1000|acre|km2 campus contains sixteen buildings.cite web|url= |title=Luther Campus |publisher=Luther College |accessdate=2008-09-15] Larsen Hall (1907), Loyalty Hall (1916), and the Koren Building (1921) . During the last decade the college has engaged in extensive building and renovation projects. The Franklin W. Olin Building (1995), Baker Village (1999), the Jenson-Noble Hall of Music (ren. 2002), and the Center for the Arts (2002) have expanded Luther's educational and student life offerings. An extensive renovation of the Centennial Union was completed in October 2006, and the college is finishing a major renovation and addition to the Valders Hall of Science this year. Luther hosts a variety of housing options, including residence halls, houses, and community-style townhouses (Baker Village) for upper-class students; renovations are being undertaken in the residence halls as well. The Center for Faith and Life is Luther's largest and primary performing arts facility, seating about 1,450 people, and housing the 62-rank Rost Memorial Organ.


Luther is a full-time, four-year, exclusively undergraduate institution offering programs in the arts & sciences plus professions. Luther employs 181 full-time teaching faculty, 89% of whom hold a Ph.D. or other terminal degree. The ratio of students to faculty is 12:1. Luther operates on a 4-1-4 academic schedule, where students usually take four classes in the fall and spring semesters, and 1 class during an intensive January Term (colloquially referred to as "J-term"). Luther is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools as well as professional accreditation boards for teachers, social work, music, nursing, and chemistry. [cite web|url= |title=Accreditation and Affiliations |publisher=Luther College |accessdate=2008-09-15]

Luther offers 40 degree-granting majors as well as over 20 other minors and pre-professional programs. [cite web|url=|title=List of majors, minors, and programs at Luther |publisher=Luther College |accessdate=2008-09-15] Luther granted 566 bachelor's degrees in the 2006-2007 school year. [cite web|url= |title=Common Data Set: Enrollment and Persistence |publisher=Luther College |accessdate=2008-09-15] The most popular majors (by degrees conferred) are in business/marketing, visual and performing arts, social sciences, and biological/life sciences. [Cite web|url= |title=Common Data Set: Degrees Conferred |publisher=Luther College |accessdate=2008-09-15]

An important part of the common curriculum at Luther is Paideia, a two-part interdisciplinary program named after the Greek word for "education." Paideia I is a year-long common course integrating English and History; Paideia II courses are semester-long interdisciplinary seminars for upperclassmen which concentrate on the process of making ethical decisions.

Tuition for 2008-2009 was $30,920 and 98% of students receive need and/or merit-based financial aid.

Admissions and rankings

Among liberal arts colleges, Luther College was ranked 88th for 2008-2009 by "U.S. News and World Report",cite web|url= |title=Best Colleges 2009: Liberal Arts Colleges |publisher=US News and World Report |accessdate=2008-09-15] 52nd in 2008 by the "Washington Monthly", [cite web|url= |title=College Rankings: Liberal Arts Colleges |publisher=Washington Monthly |accessdate=2008-09-20] and 87th in 2008 by the Center for College Affordability & Productivity. [cite web|url= |title=How to Choose a College |publisher=Forbes Magazine |date=May 19, 2008 |accessdate=2008-09-15] Luther was listed among the 170 "Best in the Midwest" colleges by the Princeton Review and named by the Teagle Foundation one of the top 13 liberal arts college based upon its strong utilization of resources, high graduation rate, and large number of alumni that pursue advanced degrees. [cite web|url= |title=Luther College Rankigns & Lists |publisher=The Princeton Review |accessdate=2008-09-15] [cite web|url= |title=Report on a Study by Roger T. Kaufman and Geoffrey Woglom on Graduation Rates and Ph.D. Production in Liberal Arts Colleges |publisher=Teagle Foundation |accessdate=2008-09-15]

1,696 students were admitted out of 2,054 applicants (82.6% admissions rate) for the class of 2011. 29% of freshmen were in the top 10% of their high school class, the average high school grade point average was 3.6, and the interquartile range for SAT scores was 1520-1970.cite web|url= |title=Common Data Set: First-time, First-year (Freshman) Admission |publisher=Luther College |accessdate=2008-09-15] Luther is classified as a "Baccalaureate Colleges--Arts & Sciences" (Bac/A&S) in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Carnegie described its admission profile as "more selective, lower transfer-in," while "U.S. News and World Report." categorized it as "more selective." cite web|url= |title=Luther College |publisher=Carnegie Foundation |accessdate=2008-09-15]


Luther is arguably most famous for its music organizationsFact|date=March 2008, which have acquired international recognition through their annual concert tours and recordings. The Nordic Choir, Concert Band, Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Orchestra are the college's four internationally touring ensembles, which have performed in many of the major concert halls and music centers of Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, China, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, and the Caribbean. About 40% of the student body participates in at least one of the college's six choirs, three concert bands, three orchestras, and two jazz ensembles. "Christmas at Luther," Luther's annual Christmas musical celebration, is televised nationwide.

Much of Luther's musical heritage can be largely attributed to the influence of two individuals. It was the 40-year tenure of Dr. Carlo A. Sperati, Class of 1888, that fostered the college's Lutheran musical tradition beginning in 1905, resulting in the development of the Luther College Concert Band into one of the nation's finest touring music ensembles. History shows that the Sperati's Concert Band quickly achieved national acclaim; even to the point that famed bandmaster John Philip Sousa canceled a performance of his famed touring ensemble just so that he could attend a performance of the Luther College Concert Band, which was scheduled to appear in a nearby city.

Sperati's foundation would later be strengthened and steadily built upon by Weston Noble '43, himself a student of Sperati. Following three years of U.S. Army enlistment in World War II, Noble returned to his alma mater to conduct the Concert Band and the Nordic Choir, direct Christmastime performances of George Frederic Handel's "Messiah", and teach in the Music Department. Noble's bands (which he conducted until 1973) and choirs achieved widespread critical acclaim for their coast-to-coast tours and international appearances. Ensembles under his direction performed solo concerts at such venues as Lincoln Center and Town Hall in New York; the Kennedy Center in Washington; the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City; Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles; Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center in Chicago, Orchestra Hall and the State Theatre in Minneapolis, and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in Saint Paul. Under Noble's direction, Luther ensembles also appeared at historic cathedrals and concert halls throughout Europe, Russia, and Scandinavia, as well as on the programs of several national conventions of the American Bandmasters Association, the American Choral Directors Association, and the Music Educators National Conference.

The Nordic Choir was featured in the film "The Joy of Bach," and in four weekly international broadcasts of "The Hour of Power" from the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. [ Weston Noble] retired from the faculty at the close of the academic year in 2005, having served continuously for 57 years, from 1948 to 2005.

The Nordic Choir, which tours internationally, is the most well known choral ensemble beyond the Luther College community. However, the ensemble is only one of the six traditional choral ensembles at Luther. Collegiate Chorale is a mixed choir composed of juniors and seniors. Cathedral Choir is a mixed choir composed of sophomores. Aurora (formerly known as Pike Kor which is Norwegian for "young women's choir") and Norsemen are gendered choirs composed entirely of first-year students. Cantorei is a women's choir drawing membership from all classes, primarily sophomore through senior. In addition to the six traditional choirs, there are two chamber ensembles: Collegium Musicum, an early music ensemble of vocalists and instrumentalists, and the Vocal Jazz Ensemble, which often performs jointly with Luther's instrumental jazz ensembles.

Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Orchestra, and Concert Band also tour internationally. Symphony Orchestra establishes residency in Vienna every four years, and Jazz Orchestra has toured in the Caribbean and Brazil. Concert Band has recently toured in Japan and China.

As of 2006, [ Frederick Nyline] continues to conduct the Concert Band, and [ Dr. Craig Arnold] has succeeded Weston Noble as Director of Choral Activities and conductor of Nordic Choir. [ Dr. Daniel Baldwin] conducts the Luther College Symphony Orchestra, and [ Dr. Juan-Tony Guzmán] directs Jazz Orchestra.

In 1996, musician Dave Matthews appeared in concert with Tim Reynolds at Luther College in the Center for Faith and Life, the site of their 1999 album "Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds Live at Luther College".

In 2002, the Empire Brass, with college organist William Kuhlman, appeared in concert and recorded an album, "Baroque Music for Brass and Organ", in the Center for Faith and Life.

In 2008, musician Ben Folds appeared in concert at Luther College in the Center for Faith and Life. During the concert crowd tracks were recorded to be incorporated into a not yet released next album.

tudy abroad

Luther's approach to internationalizing the campus curriculum is to build on the international expertise of its faculty and to support and encourage faculty development through study abroad program and course development. Since 1990 over 110 Luther faculty have led Luther students on an overseas program. These experiences have resulted in the insertion of many international topics into academic disciplines and syllabuses across the curriculum. Luther faculty are strong advocates for student study abroad experiences and serve as valuable advisors to students.

The diverse international experiences of faculty enables development of study abroad courses and programs directly with overseas friends and colleagues, who become key resource people in other nations. These valuable contacts move students closer to the culture, improve the academic quality of courses, decrease student program costs and reduce the touring mentality. Since 1990 Luther has operated its own courses and programs in 64 nations.


The Luther Norse have been a member of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (commonly called the Iowa Conference or IIAC) since its founding in 1922. Luther has won more conference championships than any other school in the history of the IIAC.

Distinguished alumni

*Ingebrikt Frederick Grose 1885, First president of Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota (1891-1893)
*Jacob Aall Ottesen Preus 1903, 20th Governor of Minnesota
*Clarence Norman Brunsdale '13, 24th Governor and U.S. Senator from North Dakota
*Weston Noble '43, internationally renowned director of Nordic Choir (1948-2005) and Concert Band (1948-1973)
*Adolph Herseth '43, principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1948-2001)
* [ Brad Steiger] '57 paranormal author
*Steven Hendrickson '73, principal trumpet of the National Symphony Orchestra (United States) (1982-Present)
*Rev. Dean Johnson '69, Minnesota Senate Majority Leader (DFL) (2004-07; Member 1983-2007), Brigadier General, Chief of National Guard Chaplains
*Cheryl Browne '72, 1970 Miss Iowa pageant winner and Miss America competitor
*Marty Haugen '73, composer of sacred music ("Holden Evening Prayer")
*Dr. Michael Osterholm '75, professor and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota; member of the National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity; epidemiologist, biosecurity expert, and [ author]
*Mark Johnson-Williams '76, co-designer of Tickle Me Elmo
*Dagfinn Høybråten '79, Norwegian Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
*Brian Andreas '79, writer, painter, sculptor, publisher. Presented with the Luther College Distinguished Service Award in 1999.
*Jim Nussle '83, U.S. Congressman from Iowa (1991-2007)
*Kent Stock '85, Coach of the infamous 1991 Norway High School baseball team who won their 20th straight Iowa State Championship in their final season. He was played by Sean Astin in the film The Final Season.
*Kurt Heinecke '87, primary music composer for the Veggie Tales series.
*Callista Bisek-Gingrich '88, wife of Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives
*Drew Curtis '95, founder of
* [ Eric Cutler] '99, opera singer
* [ Joshua Shank] '03, choral composer

External links

* [ Official Website]
* [ Norse Athletics]
* [ KWLC Radio Station]


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