and Heritage of
[Faculty Handbook Category #1]
A group of pioneer pastors, farmers and businessmen in Rice, Dakota and Goodhue counties, under the leadership of the Rev. Bernt Julius Muus, the Rev. N.A. Quammen and Harald Thorson, laid the groundwork for the college's founding in 1874. The purpose of the school, then as now, was to offer a program of liberal studies to students preparing for careers in business, politics, the clergy and other professions.
In choosing a name for the institution, the founders
responded to strong Norwegian national as well as religious symbolism; it grew
out of a celebration in the Norwegian immigrant community of the splendor of
the Nordic middle ages as a means of defining ethnic merits and identity. They
named the school for Olav II Haraldsson (spelled Olaf
in the 19th century), king of
St. Olaf's School was
operated as an academy until 1886, when a college department was added. The
name was changed to
Affiliated with the
Many influences have combined to make St. Olaf what it is today. Dedicated faculty members have contributed to its academic reputation. Originating in the Norwegian immigrant desire for higher learning, the college has made a significant contribution to American liberal arts education while maintaining an academic center with a strong program for the study of Scandinavian culture. The rich St. Olaf tradition in music has gained worldwide renown for the college through its choirs and instrumental organizations.
Since 1874 the college has had ten presidents: the Rev. Thorbjorn N. Mohn, who was first the principal of St. Olaf's School and then the president of St. Olaf College until 1899; John N. Kildahl, 1899–1914; Lauritz A. Vigness, 1914–1918; Lars W. Boe, 1918–1942; Clemens M. Granskou, 1943–1963; Sidney A. Rand, 1963–1980; Harlan F. Foss, 1980–1985; Melvin D. George, 1985–1994; Mark U. Edwards, Jr., 1994 to 2000; and Christopher M. Thomforde (2001 – present).