Luther College
The Luther bell, which stands in front of the Dahl Centennial Union
MottoSoli Deo Gloria
and Verbum Dei Manet in Æternum
Motto in EnglishTo God alone be the Glory
and The Word of the Lord endures forever
Religious affiliationEvangelical Lutheran Church in America
Endowment$94.7 million (July 2009)[1]
PresidentRichard L. Torgerson
Academic staff181 full-time
LocationDecorah, Iowa, USA
Campus175 acres (71 ha) main campus, an additional 825 acres (334 ha) of field research areas[2]
ColorsBlue and White            
AffiliationsPhi Beta Kappa, Associated Colleges of the Midwest

Luther College is a four-year, residential liberal arts institution of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, located in Decorah, Iowa, USA. The college offers more than 60 majors and preprofessional programs leading to the bachelor of arts degree, with the greatest number of graduates coming from biology, education, and music.[3]

Eighty-nine percent of Luther's 181 full-time faculty hold an earned doctorate or terminal degree. The college's student-faculty ratio is 12:1. A Phi Beta Kappa chapter attests the academic excellence of the college. Nearly 40 states and more than 50 countries are represented in the 2,500-member student body. Over 80 percent of Luther students study abroad, and the college has one of the highest Peace Corps and other service corps participation rates nationally.[citation needed] Luther's mission statement emphasizes faith, leadership, and service to the larger world. Its 800-acre (320 ha) campus is located in the bluff country of northeast Iowa along the Upper Iowa River. Luther is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.


On October 10, 1857, the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church created a college to supply ministers for Norwegian congregations in the Upper Midwest. Until the college was established in 1861, students would study at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. On October 14, 1859, the Rev. Peter Laurentius 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.

In 1866, a group of students signed a "bill of rights" criticizing the rigid schedule, the rules about going downtown, the lack of windows in some of the sleeping rooms, and the wood cutting and shoe shining chores, concluding that "there was not enough freedom".[4] The leader, 18 year old Rasmus Anderson was expelled.[4] This event was viewed as a rebellion and "the worse of sins" by the pastors assembled in a pastoral conference shortly after.[4]


Campus House, built in 1867, is the oldest building on campus. Originally a parsonage for Nils O. Brandt (1824-1921), pastor of the campus, it was soon purchased by the College.

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 admit women to the student body, which happened in 1936 due to financial constraints associated with the Great Depression. 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.


Luther's current Main Building is the third to stand in the same location; fire destroyed the previous two.

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. Started in 1967, Nordic Fest grew from Luther College Women’s Club annual celebration of Norwegian Constitution Day.


Luther's campus is built on the rolling wooded hills and rugged limestone cliffs of northeast Iowa's bluff country. The scenic Upper Iowa River flows through the lower portion of the 175-acre (71 ha) central campus. The college owns an additional 125 acres (51 ha) adjoining the central campus which are devoted to environmental research, biological studies, and recreation.[2]


Luther College campus

During the last decade the college has engaged in extensive building and renovation projects. An extensive renovation of residence halls and the Dahl Centennial Union was completed in 2006, and Sampson Hoffland Laboratories, an extension of Valders Hall of Science, was completed in 2008. Sampson Hoffland Laboratories features many "green" properties, including an efficient air-handling system, low-flow water devices, occupancy sensors and low VOC. Sampson Hoffland's "green" traits were honored with LEED Gold certification.[5] Luther hosts a variety of housing options, including residence halls (Miller Hall, Dieseth Hall, Ylvisaker Hall, Farwell Hall, Brandt Hall, Larsen Hall, Olson Hall), several houses, the College Apartments, and community-style townhouses for upper-class students in Baker Village. The Center for Faith and Life is Luther's largest and primary performing arts facility, seating 1,600 people, and housing the 53-rank, 42-stop, 3-manual tracker-action Rost Memorial Pipe Organ.


Brandt Hall

Diderikke Brandt Hall is named for Diderikke Brandt, wife of the first college pastor, Nils Brandt. The west wing opened in 1949, the east wing in 1958. Renovated in 2003, the east and west wing are connected by a social lounge on the first floor, the main study lounge on the second floor, and a study lounge on the third floor.

Brandt is one of the three designated residence halls for first-year students.

Olson Hall

Completed in 1955 and named for Oscar L. Olson—third president of Luther College (1921 to 1932)—this hall was renovated in summer of 2004 to include suites for upperclassmen and three-person rooms for first-year students.

The hall contains an east wing and a west wing, which are connected by a large TV lounge on the first floor, the main social lounge on the second floor, and a large study lounge on the third floor.


Luther’s sustainability program employs two full-time staff members. The college committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 2003-2004 levels by 2013, and has achieved a 15.5 percent reduction by 2009.[6] Luther's dining facilities operate preconsumer compost programs and one-third operate postconsumer programs.[7] Luther's fleet includes eight hybrid, six electric, and one compressed natural gas vehicle.[8] All new campus construction will be built to LEED Silver standards. The newly-constructed Sampson Hoffland Laboratories achieved LEED Gold certification in 2009, and two additional buildings meet LEED certification standards.

Luther was one of only 26 schools to be awarded the highest grade of “A“ on the College Sustainability Report Card 2011, published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute.[9] The campus also hosts a Car sharing location.

Campus life

Ninety percent of Luther students live on campus all four years. About 85 percent are present on campus on any given weekend. Events include approximately 162 concerts and recitals, 41 theatrical productions, 47 lectures and 143 other events.[citation needed]

Students can choose from more than 130 different groups and activities at Luther, including a student-run radio station and newspaper, more than 15 music ensembles, seven Greek societies, many academic clubs, numerous service organizations, 19 varsity sports, many recreational and club sports, Student Activities Council, and many theatrical productions.

Also, with the Upper Iowa River running adjacent to campus, students are offered many recreational options including canoeing, tubing, and kayaking. Extensive biking trails and parks in Decorah are also available to students, as well as a campus disc golf course and sand volleyball courts. Students also enjoy local shops, museums, and restaurants in Decorah, which has been listed as one of the most charming small towns in the Midwest.[10]

The nearest major airport is La Crosse, WI about 50 miles (80 km) away.[11] Some nearby cities include Prairie Du Chien, WI; Rochester, MN; La Crosse, WI. Northeast Iowa Community College is approximately 10 miles (16 km) away.



The 64,000-square-foot (5,900 m2) Sampson Hoffland Laboratories expanded Valders Hall of Science.

Luther is an exclusively undergraduate institution enrolling about 2,500 students and employing 181 full-time teaching faculty.[12] The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools as well as professional accreditation boards for teachers, social work, music, nursing, athletic training and chemistry.[13] It is a member institution of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest[14] and the Annapolis Group.[15]


Koren building, one of the oldest on campus, houses Luther's social sciences departments.

Among liberal arts colleges, Luther was ranked 88th for 2008-2009 by U.S. News and World Report,[16] 52nd in 2008 by the Washington Monthly,[17] and 87th in 2008 by the Center for College Affordability & Productivity.[18] 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.[19][20]

636 students were admitted out of 2,054 applicants for the class of 2012. Thirty-nine percent of freshmen were in the top 10 percent of their high school class, the average high school grade point average was 3.6, and the interquartile range for SAT scores was 1530-1910.[21] Tuition and fees are shown as $40,600 for 2011-2012,[22] with 98 percent of students receiving need- and/or merit-based financial aid.[12]


Luther has a number of music organizations 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, as well as Russia, China, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, and the Caribbean. About 40 percent of the student body participates in at least one of the college's seven choirs, three concert bands, three string orchestras, and two jazz ensembles. "Christmas at Luther," Luther's annual Christmas concert, is broadcast nationwide each year. The sound-only concert broadcast is updated annually, with the professionally-produced televised version updated every four years.

Much of Luther's musical heritage can be largely attributed to the influence of two long-serving individuals. The 40-year tenure of Dr. Carlo A. Sperati, Class of 1888, 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.[citation needed]

Sperati's foundation would later be strengthened and 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 completed 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, DC; 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 many 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 seven choral ensembles at Luther. Collegiate Chorale is a mixed choir composed of juniors and seniors. Cathedral Choir is a mixed choir that draws exclusively from the sophomore class. 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. Collegium Musicum is an Early Music ensemble specializing in the music of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. The ensemble is open to singers of all years at Luther. In addition to the seven choirs, the Vocal Jazz Ensemble is open to first through fourth year students and 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 travels to Japan and China following spring semester every four years. Other instrumental ensembles include Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonia, Jazz Band, Varsity Band, Brass Ensemble, and Wind & Percussion Ensemble.

Currently, Joan deAlbuquerque conducts the Concert Band, and Allen Hightower has succeeded Craig Arnold (who succeeded Weston Noble) as Director of Choral Activities and conductor of Nordic Choir. Daniel Baldwin conducts the Luther College Symphony Orchestra, and Juan-Tony Guzmán directs Jazz Orchestra.

Luther students also participate in faculty-coached student chamber ensembles ranging from piano trios to a full flute choir. Other prominent ensembles include the Luther Ringers student handbell choir; the 40+ member Trombone Choir; five student-led, small-group a cappella ensembles; the Luther College Balalaika ensemble; and the student-led Luther Gospel Choir.

Many members of the music faculty are professional performers in their own right, including Luther ensemble-in-residence, the Murasaki Duo, a professional cello-piano chamber ensemble.

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 for his second time in concert at Luther College in the Center for Faith and Life. During the concert, crowd tracks were recorded to be incorporated into his most recently released album.

Study abroad

Over 80 percent of Luther students study abroad or away.[citation needed] Since 1990, over 140 Luther faculty have led Luther students on an overseas program.[citation needed] Since 1990 Luther has operated its own courses and programs in 70 nations.[citation needed]


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 competes in 10 men's and nine women's intercollegiate athletic programs. Since joining the Iowa Conference, Luther has won 201 of the 482 IIAC titles during that period.[citation needed]

Two hundred seventy All-American honors have been earned by Luther student-athletes, and twenty-seven athletes have been crowned national champions. Forty-five student-athletes have been awarded the CoSIDA Academic All-American honor, and thirty have received the distinguished NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.

Since 1993-94, the first year of this award, 1,063 academic all-conference honors have been earned by Luther student-athletes. To earn academic all-conference honors, a student-athlete must have a grade point average of 3.50 or greater on a 4.0 scale, have attended the school for a full year and competed in a varsity sport.

Luther's football and track teams compete in Carlson Stadium, which USA Today magazine referred to as "one of the four best places to spend a football weekend."[citation needed]

About 20 percent of Luther's student body participates in one of the 19 varsity sports offered, and 70 percent of the student body participates in club sports. The college offers an extensive intramural sports program which ranges from slow pitch softball to Wii bowling. Backyard Wilderness Pursuits, a student-led organization, leads outdoor activities such as skiing and rock climbing in Decorah and the surrounding area. The school also fields dance and cheer leading squads.

Varsity sports

  • Men's
    • Football
    • Cross Country
    • Soccer
    • Basketball
    • Wrestling
    • Swimming and Diving
    • Baseball
    • Tennis
    • Golf
    • Track and Field
  • Women's
    • Cross Country
    • Soccer
    • Basketball
    • Volleyball
    • Swimming and Diving
    • Softball
    • Tennis
    • Golf
    • Track and Field

Club sports

  • Women's
    • Ultimate Frisbee
    • Rugby
    • Added 2010-2011: Lacrosse

Outdoor facilities

Carlson Stadium: 5,000 seats; football field; eight-lane, 400-meter polyurethane track with two-directional approaches for pole vault and all jumping events; two shot put circles; discus/hammer cage; and multi-directional javelin-throwing areas.

Indoor facilities

The Regents Center Gymnasium: three full-sized basketball courts and seating capacity for 2,600. Used for practice and playing of volleyball and men's and women's basketball, and as the competition site venue for wrestling. Norse basketball teams also have access to full-sized cedar basketball court in the auxiliary gym and two basketball courts in the Sports and Recreation Center.

Sports and Recreation Center: 200-meter, six-lane polyurethane-surface track; easily accessible elevated walkway allowing up to 600 spectators; six tennis courts; year-round training facility for baseball, softball, soccer, tennis and football.

Legends Fitness for Life Center: 10,000-square-foot (930 m2) training center with cardiovascular-conditioning machines; free weights; weight machines; climbing wall; computer lab; and social area.

Notable alumni

See also


  1. "A Higher Calling: The Campaign for Luther College" 2008 Campaign Report
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Luther Campus". Luther College. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  3. [1]
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Nelson, David Theodore (1961). Luther College, 1861-1961. Luther College Press. pp. 76-77.
  5. "Sampson Hoffland Laboratories Awarded LEED Gold Certification". UMACS. Retrieved 2010-04-15.
  6. "Sustainability: Energy". Luther College. Retrieved 2009-10-09.[dead link]
  7. "Sustainability: Food". Luther College. Retrieved 2009-10-09.[dead link]
  8. "Sustainability: Transportation". Luther College. Retrieved 2009-10-09.[dead link]
  10. url=
  11. url=,+IA
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Quick Facts". Luther College. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  13. "Accreditation and Affiliations". Luther College. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  14. "ACM Welcomes Luther College as Newest Member". Associated Colleges of the Midwest. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
  15. "Member Colleges". The Annapolis Group. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
  16. "Best Colleges 2009: Liberal Arts Colleges". US News and World Report. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  17. "College Rankings: Liberal Arts Colleges". Washington Monthly. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
  18. "How to Choose a College". Forbes Magazine. May 19, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  19. "Luther College Rankings & Lists". The Princeton Review. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  20. "Report on a Study by Roger T. Kaufman and Geoffrey Woglom on Graduation Rates and Ph.D. Production in Liberal Arts Colleges". Teagle Foundation. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  21. "Common Data Set: First-time, First-year (Freshman) Admission". Luther College. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  22. url=
  23. "BRUNSDALE, Clarence Norman, (1891 - 1978)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved September 6, 2012.

Other sources

  • Bothne, Gisle C. J. History of Luther College (Decorah, IA. Fortfatteren. 1897)

External links

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