St. Olaf College
MottoFram! Fram! Kristmenn, Krossmenn
(Adapted from the Old Norse battle cry of St. Olav, King of Norway: "Forward! Forward! Men of Christ, Men of the Cross")
TypePrivate liberal arts college
Endowment$345.3 Million [1]
PresidentDavid R. Anderson '74, Ph.D.
Students3,007 undergraduates
LocationNorthfield, Minnesota, United States
Campus3.72 km2 (1 sq mi)
or 372 ha (920 acres)[1]
ColorsBlack and Old Gold          
Nickname"Oles" (Oh'-lees)
MascotSt. Olaf Lion
AffiliationsMIAC, ELCA.

St. Olaf College is a coeducational, residential, four-year, private liberal arts college in Northfield, Minnesota, United States. It was founded in 1874 by a group of Norwegian-American immigrant pastors and farmers, led by Pastor Bernt Julius Muus. The college is named after Olaf II of Norway, former king and patron saint of Norway.




Many Norwegian immigrants arrived in Rice County, Minnesota, and the surrounding area in the late 19th century. With nearly all the immigrants being Lutheran Christians, they desired a non-secular post-secondary institution in the Lutheran tradition that offered classes in all subjects in both Norwegian and English. The catalyst for founding St. Olaf was the Reverend Bernt Julius Muus, and he sought out the help of the Rev. N.A. Quammen and H. Thorson. Together they petitioned their parishes and others to raise money in order to buy a plot of land on which to build this new institution. The three men succeeded in receiving around $10,000 in pledges, and thus went on to form a corporation and to buy a plot of land and four buildings (old Northfield schoolhouses) for accommodations for the school.

St. Olaf, then called St. Olaf's School, opened on January 8, 1875 at its first site under the leadership of its first president, Thorbjorn Mohn, a graduate of Luther College. Herman Amberg Preus, President of the Norwegian Synod, laid this foundation stone of the St. Olaf School on July 4, 1877. During 1887 the Manitou Messenger was founded as a campus magazine and has since evolved into the college's student newspaper.[2]


File:StOlaf College Campus.jpg

Known as “The Hill,” St. Olaf College’s picturesque 300-acre (120 ha) campus is home to 17 academic and administrative buildings, 29 student residences and 10 athletic facilities. St. Olaf is a residential college; 96 percent of St. Olaf students reside in one of the 11 residence halls and 18 academic and special interest group houses. Adjacent to campus are 325 acres (132 ha) of restored wetlands, woodlands, and native tall grass prairie owned and maintained by St. Olaf, and a utility-grade wind turbine that supplies up to one-third of the college’s daily electrical needs.

Two buildings on the campus are listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Old Main, designed by Long and Haglin; and Steensland Library, designed by Omeyer and Thori. Steensland Library presently houses International and Off-Campus Studies.[3]



Before graduating, St. Olaf students complete nearly 20 required courses in foundation studies (writing, a second language, oral communication, mathematical reasoning, physical well-being, as well as other courses) and core studies that include studies in Western culture, human behavior and society, biblical and theological studies, artistic and literary studies, and studies in natural science. Many of the courses are interdisciplinary. St. Olaf offers 39 major areas of study for the bachelor of arts degree, four for the bachelor of music degree and nineteen areas of concentration.

The average student-to-faculty ratio is 12.8:1. The average class size is 22 students.

Study abroadEdit

St. Olaf College is recognized nationally for the quality of its international studies programs and the Open Doors 2009 Report on International Educational Exchange ranks St. Olaf No. 1 nationally out of bachelor-degree institutions in the number of students who study abroad.[4][dead link] The college offers more than 120 international and U.S. off-campus study programs in Hong Kong, Japan, Costa Rica, Vietnam, the Czech Republic, London, Florence, Oxford, Aberdeen, Manhattan, Russia, and many other locations. Unique faculty-led study-abroad programs offered by the college include "Global Semester," "Term in the Middle East," and "Term in Asia" that take students to a variety of countries within each program.

Academic distinctionsEdit

According to the National Research Council’s "Survey of Earned Doctorates", St. Olaf ranks eighth among bachelor degree colleges in the number of graduates who go on to earn doctoral degrees[citation needed]. (This represents the years 1995–2004.) St. Olaf was also first among baccalaureate colleges in mathematics, second in religion and theology, seventh in chemistry, third in foreign languages, third in art and music and fifth in life sciences as an undergraduate supplier of Ph.D.s[citation needed].

U.S. News & World Report's “America’s Best Colleges 2009” ranked St. Olaf among the nation’s top liberal arts colleges in graduation rate performance (33rd), academic reputation (35th), freshman retention (25th) and percentage of incoming students who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class (53rd)[citation needed]. The school's overall US News ranking is 47.

Campus lifeEdit

Student organizationsEdit

More than 180 registered student organizations are registered at St. Olaf, including academic, athletic, awareness, multicultural, political, religious, service (Alpha Phi Omega) and other special interest groups. Club sports include men's and women's Ultimate Frisbee, men’s and women’s rugby, men’s and women’s lacrosse, badminton, cycling, judo, fencing, and rowing. The Manitou Messenger is the student newspaper and KSTO 93.1 FM is the student-operated radio station. Other groups include an on-campus organic farm (STOGROW), an improv comedy troupe (Scared Scriptless), and an EMT (emergency medical technician) organization that is the first responder for campus emergencies.

Student governmentEdit

St. Olaf’s Student Government Association (SGA) finances many student activities and organizations on campus. It operates through 10 branches, each of which is managed by an elected executive: Diversity Celebrations Committee, Volunteer Network, Music Entertainment Committee, Student Activities Committee, Student Organizations Committee, Board of Regents Student Committee, Student Alumni Association, The Pause, After Dark Committee and Political Awareness Committee. Besides these committees, students can serve on Student Senate to vote on issues such as constitutional bylaws changes and dorm capital improvement funds and communicate with college administrators about campus issues.

SGA also maintains[5]

Music programEdit

St. Olaf's world-renowned music program was founded by F. Melius Christiansen in 1903. Its band, choir and orchestra tour the continental U.S. annually and have made many critically acclaimed international tours (that occur every three years). The St. Olaf Band, currently under the direction of Timothy Mahr '78, was the first American college musical organization to conduct a concert tour abroad when it traveled to Norway in 1906. In March 1997, the St. Olaf Band toured California for nine days. They were one of four college or university bands invited to perform at the prestigious American Bandmasters Association National Convention in San Diego. Most recently, the band conducted a study tour of Japan in 2010.[6]

The St. Olaf Orchestra is conducted by Steven Amundson. Under Amundson’s direction, the Orchestra has performed demanding scores seldom attempted by amateur groups, including Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection),[7] Stravinsky’s Petrouchka and Rite of Spring, Ravel’s La valse, and tone poems by Richard Strauss. The orchestra has also premiered several new compositions in recent years.

The St. Olaf Choir, conducted by Anton Armstrong ’78, was founded by Christiansen in 1907 as the St. John’s Lutheran Church Choir in Northfield. It is recognized as one of the premier collegiate ensembles in the United States.[8] It has toured Europe several times, as well as China, Korea, and Australia, performing before heads of state and producing more than a dozen recordings. The choir performs in the nationally broadcast annual St. Olaf Christmas Festival, along with the St. Olaf Orchestra and four of the college's other choirs. In 2005 the St. Olaf Choir was invited to perform at the White House for President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush and guests to commemorate The National Day of Prayer.

The St. Olaf Jazz I ensemble was recently awarded the prestigious Downbeat magazine award for top undergraduate large ensemble in 2011. This is particularly worthy of note as St. Olaf has no jazz studies department or jazz program.[9]

Other student musical ensembles include Chapel Choir, Cantorei, Manitou Singers, Viking Chorus, Collegiate Chorale, Philharmonia, Norseman Band and many smaller vocal and instrumental ensembles. There are also four student-run music ensembles at St. Olaf: Valhalla Band, Naknefeler Orchestra, and the men's and women's a cappella groups: The Limestones and Agnes, respectively. These groups are not a part of the college's music program and operate independently.

In 2005 the St. Olaf Band, St. Olaf Orchestra, and St. Olaf Choir toured throughout Norway to celebrate its centennial of independence from Sweden.

A few ensembles that sprouted their roots at St. Olaf include the Minnesota Symphonic Winds and the a cappella choral groups Cantus, Inpulse and Magnum Chorum.

Athletics Edit

St. Olaf College is a member of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). St. Olaf athletic teams and students are nicknamed the "Oles." St. Olaf's Swimming and Diving team is one of its strongest of its sports teams, having won a majority of its MIAC conference championships, and is strongly competitive at the national level, often finishing within the top ten NCAA Division III schools at nationals. Along with them, the St. Olaf Ski Teams carry a tradition of winning all divisional and regional races. They consistently qualify for the USCSA Division III National Championships and have been constant competitors for the top three team podium spots for the nation. In the past the ski team has brought home national wins and consistently brings home the national nordic/ alpine combined victory called The President's Cup. The St. Olaf Men's Alpine team is currently ranked 2nd in the United States for DIII and the Women's Alpine team is currently ranked 4th for DIII. St. Olaf competes in the following sports:

Fall Sports:

Winter Sports:

Spring Sports:

St. Olaf also has many student coached club and intramural teams that compete within the student body and also inter-college. Most notable are the St. Olaf Ultimate teams, The Berzerkers and Durga, which make an annual trip to a national collegiate tournament (Spring Ultimax) in North Carolina. This year Durga played at the Division III Nationals tournament in Buffalo, NY, finishing at 7th place.

Rivalry with Carleton CollegeEdit


St. Olaf is a traditional athletic rival of its crosstown neighbor Carleton College. Each year in American football, Carleton and St. Olaf compete in a contest recently dubbed the "Cereal Bowl" in honor of the Malt-O-Meal production facility that is located in Northfield. In this contest, the Oles had a winning streak 1995–2007 before losing 21–7 in 2008. The annual winner receives the "Goat Trophy" (created by a St. Olaf carpenter in 1931) as well as the silver Cereal Bowl trophy.

The rivalry between St. Olaf and Carleton, which began with a Carleton victory over St. Olaf in 1919, is one of the oldest in all of college football, and the only to feature two colleges from the same ZIP code.

A lesser known fact about the Cereal Bowl is that Northfield's Civil War Veterans' Memorial (located in Bridge Square) features an eagle that is turned to face the college that wins the annual football match between the two schools.

These football teams are also significant for constituting the only NCAA-sanctioned metric football game in history (which St. Olaf won).

Fight songEdit

Based on a Norwegian folk tune, the college song, Um Yah Yah, is the only college fight song in the United States to be in 3/4 (waltz) meter. It is also one of the few college songs to mention another college in its lyrics. Other fight songs that mention rival schools include those of Texas A&M University, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Alabama, the University of Texas, Georgetown University, Williams College, Georgia Institute of Technology, the United States Naval Academy, and Boston University (in the "unofficial" lyrics to the fight song).

The lyrics to the St. Olaf song include the unofficial St. Olaf "battle cry" — "Um Yah Yah!". The most common version uses the name of traditional cross-town rival, Carleton College, but the current opposing institution's name is inserted when sung at athletic competitions.

We come from St. Olaf, we sure are the real stuff.
Our team is the cream of the colleges great.
We fight fast and furious, our team is injurious.
Tonight Carleton College will sure meet its fate.

Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah YAH!

Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah YAH!


St. Olaf has had 11 presidents since its founding:

Church affiliationEdit

Kierkegaard LibraryEdit

Inside the campus, this library was established with funds from St. Olaf College and Kierkegaard scholars Howard and Edna Hong. As curator, Howard Hong acquired books actually owned by Kierkegaard, books that are the same edition of those owned by him, Kierkegaard's complete works in many languages, and secondary bibliography about Kierkegaard. Subsequent curators of the library have also been renowned scholars; they include theologian Stephen C. Evans and philosopher Gordon Marino. Each year there is a summer fellowship program where St. Olaf College provides housing in campus dormitories or student honor houses; the Library provides a small stipend to cover living expenditures. Activities in the summer include Danish courses and a symposium every other year. There are also year-long Kierkegaard Fellowships, and these Kierkegaard scholars live in the Kierkegaard House.

Notable alumniEdit

Notable St. Olaf alumni include Minnesota Gov. Al Quie '50, television news anchor Roger Grimsby '50, chemist Robert J. Angelici '59, Oscar-winning screenwriter Barry Morrow '70, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gretchen Morgenson '76, Conductors René Clausen '74, Anton Armstrong '78, and Timothy Mahr '78, politicians Andrew Volstead 1881, August H. Andresen '12, Arnie Arnesen,[11] Arlen Erdahl '53, David Minge '63, John Marty '78, and Steve Sviggum '79, and writers Ole Rolvaag 1905, Siri Hustvedt '77, Traci Lambrecht '89 (of P.J. Tracy), and Alexander Bery '94.

Notable facultyEdit

In popular cultureEdit

St. Olaf is mentioned in the works of Minnesota author F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose character Jay Gatsby of The Great Gatsby attended the college briefly and worked as a janitor. The college is also frequently mentioned in Garrison Keillor's radio program A Prairie Home Companion, which broadcast its show from St. Olaf on Nov. 17, 2001 and Nov. 19, 2011.

The fictional Minnesota city of St. Olaf was the hometown of Rose Nylund in the TV show The Golden Girls. In the TV show the fictional city's sister city was St. Gustav, Minnesota, a nod to Gustavus Adolphus College, located in nearby St. Peter, Minnesota. Betty White, the actress who played Rose, visited the St. Olaf campus on one occasion and was given an honorary membership in St. Olaf's chapter of the theater honorary society.

The St. Olaf Choir can be heard performing Mozart's Requiem with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in Nike's "Jordan XXII-Takeover" commercial. The St. Olaf Choir was also heard on the soundtrack of the 1972 film The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid.[12]

In October 2008 the Coen Brothers shot scenes at St. Olaf for their film A Serious Man.[13][14] After a long search of many campuses, the Coen brothers chose St. Olaf's old Science Center because it had the late 1960s look of the movie. St. Olaf has built a new science center and has remodeled the old building.

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

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