A closer look at Augustana College

The Lutheran Normal School (1889-1918). Founded in Sioux Falls by the Norwegian Synod in order to provide teachers for Lutheran parochial schools, Augustana's partner-to-be had this stark look in 1895. Old main was constructed in 1889 on four acres donated by Senator R.F. Pettigrew. Old Main still stands today on Augustana's campus. Photo: Augustana College.

The Lutheran Normal School (1889-1918). Founded in Sioux Falls by the Norwegian Synod in order to provide teachers for Lutheran parochial schools, Augustana's partner-to-be had this stark look in 1895. Old main was constructed in 1889 on four acres donated by Senator R.F. Pettigrew. Old Main still stands today on Augustana's campus. Photo: Augustana College.

Providing an education of enduring worth that challenges the intellect, fosters integrity, and integrates faither with learning and service in a diverse world

By Christy Olsen Field

Norwegian American Weekly

As one of the earliest Norwegian colleges in the United States, Augustana College is proud of its heritage. The name “Augustana” is drawn from the origin of the Lutheran Church in the Augsburg Confession in 1530 A.D. during the time of the Reformation. The Latin designation of this document was the Confessio Augustana. Augustana is inspired by the rich Lutheran scholarly tradition and the liberal arts, and educates its students for learning and service in a diverse world.

Augustana College traces its roots to the Hillsboro Academy in Hillsboro, Ill. in 1835. A Scandinavian Lutheran group changed the name in 1846 to “The Literary and Theological Institute of the Lutheran Church of the Far West.” The school later moved to Springfield, Ill., where it became known as Illinois State University, and among its more well-known students were John Hay, who later became Secretary of State, and Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln.

Due to doctrinal differences, Professor Lars Paul Esbjorn and a group of followers moved to Chicago in 1860 to establish the Augustana College and Seminary. In the 1860s, the fledgling college was caught up in the westward movement of pioneers, moving its location to Paxton, Ill. in 1863; Marshall, Wis. in 1869; Beloit, Iowa in 1881; and to Canton, S.D. in 1884.

Meanwhile, the Lutheran Normal School for educating teachers opened in Sioux Falls, S.D., in 1889. In 1918, synod officials felt that two institutions so close together —approximately 20 miles— was not cost-effective, and therefore merged Augustana College in Canton with the Lutheran Normal School in Sioux Falls under the name Augustana College. After the merger, the school site in Canton became the Augustana Academy (no affiliation with the college), and closed in 1971. Augustana College identifies 1860 as its founding date along with its sister-school, Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. Those familiar with the two institutions, often refer to Augustana, Rock Island as the Swedish Lutheran school while Augustana in Sioux Falls is known as the Norwegian Lutheran school. Not only do the institutions share the same name, but also the same mascot —Vikings— and school colors, blue and gold for Rock Island while Sioux Falls version claims navy blue (as in the Norwegian flag) and gold.

Today, Augustana College is located in Sioux Falls, S.D., a city of over 151,000 residents. Approximately 1750 students from 25 states and over a dozen countries attend the college. Beyond the classroom, Augustana offers over 60 student organizations and activities for involvement, including 18 NCAA Division II athletic teams and 16 performing arts ensembles in music and theatre. Augustana traditions include Viking Days and Viking Varieties, and Ole the Viking statue, located in the center of the Quadrangle, is often decorated for special seasonal events. Augustana College’s five core values — Christian, liberal arts, excellence, community, and service — serve as the foundation for the College’s academic and student life programs. With this foundation, Augustana College strives to provide an education of enduring worth that challenges the intellect, fosters integrity and integrates faith with learning and service in a diverse world.

To learn more about Augustana College, visit www.augie.edu.

This article was originally published in the Norwegian American Weekly on Aug. 14, 2009. For more information about the Weekly, call us at (800) 305-0217 or email subscribe@norway.com.

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