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Gustavus Adolphus College
Old Main at Gustavus Adolphus College
Motto E Caelo Nobis Vires[1]
Motto in English "Strength Comes To Us From Heaven"
Established 1862
Type Private liberal arts
Religious affiliation Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Endowment $109.6 million [1]
President Jack R. Ohle
Academic staff 170 full-time, 94% tenure-track faculty. 11:1 student/faculty ratio. Average class size 15.
Students Approximately 2,600
Location St. Peter, Minnesota, United States
Campus 1.38 km2 (0.53 sq mi)
or 138 ha (340 acres)
Colors Black and Gold            
Nickname "Golden Gusties"
Mascot "Gus," the Lion
Affiliations MIAC
Website gustavus.edu

Gustavus Adolphus College is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America located in St. Peter, Minnesota, United States. A coeducational, four-year, residential institution, it was founded in 1862 by Swedish Americans. To this day the school is firmly rooted in its Swedish and Lutheran heritage. The premier event on campus is the annual Nobel Conference, which features Nobel Laureates and other world-renowned scholars explaining their expertise to a general audience.

Mission and values[edit]

The college presents its mission as tied to the fact that it is a church-related college: A "private residential liberal arts college firmly rooted in its Swedish and Lutheran heritage.” While the institution offers many majors, the school also presents itself as a place where "a mature understanding of the Christian faith" is nurtured; so that “students are encouraged to work toward a just and peaceful world.” Many students are involved in volunteer work, and service learning is integrated into many of the courses on campus. Through such techniques, the institution realizes its self-stated core values of (1) Excellence, (2) Community, (3) Justice, (4) Service, and (5) Faith.[2]



View of the campus c. 1905

The college was founded in 1862 as a Lutheran parochial school at Red Wing by Eric Norelius, pastor. Originally named Minnesota Elementar Skola (elementary school in Swedish), it moved the following year to East Union, an unincorporated town in Dahlgren Township. In 1865, on the 1,000th anniversary of the death of St. Ansgar, known as the "Apostle of the North", the institution was renamed and incorporated as St. Ansgar's Academy.


In April 1873, the college was renamed Gustavus Adolphus Literary & Theological Institute in honor of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. On October 16, 1876, it opened as Gustavus Adolphus College at the current location, enticed to relocate to St. Peter by the town's offer of $10,000 and a large campus. Gustavus is the oldest of several Lutheran colleges in Minnesota. It was founded as a college of the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church. In 1962 it became a college of the Lutheran Church in America, when the Augustana Synod merged into that body. The Lutheran Church in America merged in 1988 to create the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

World War II[edit]

During World War II, Gustavus Adolphus College was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a Navy commission.[3]

Founding of the Nobel Conference[edit]

The annual Nobel Conference was established in the mid-1960s when college officials asked the Nobel Foundation for permission to name the new science building the Alfred Nobel Hall of Science as a memorial to the Swedish inventor, Alfred Nobel. Permission was granted, and the facility's dedication ceremony in 1963 included officials from the Nobel Foundation and 26 Nobel Laureates. Following the 1963 Nobel Prize ceremonies in Stockholm, college representatives met with Nobel Foundation officials, asking them to endorse an annual science conference at the College and to allow use of the Nobel name to establish credibility and high standards. At the urging of several prominent Nobel laureates, the foundation granted the request, and the first conference was held at the college in January 1965.

Presidents of Gustavus Adolphus College[edit]

  • Eric Norelius, 1862–63, Founder
  • Andrew Jackson, principal 1863–73, acting principal 1874–76
  • John J. Frodeen, principal 1873–74
  • Jonas P. Nyquist, 1876–81
  • Matthias Wahlstrom, 1881–1904
  • Peter A. Mattson, 1904–11
  • Jacob P. Uhler, acting president 1911–1913, 1927
  • Oscar J. "O.J." Johnson, 1913–42
  • Walter Lunden, 1942–43
  • O.A. Winfield, acting president 1943–44
  • Edgar M. Carlson, 1944–1968
  • Albert Swanson, acting president 1968–69
  • Frank Barth, 1968–75
  • Edward A. Lindell, 1975–80
  • Abner W. Arthur, acting president 1980–81
  • John S. Kendall, 1981–91
  • Axel D. Steuer, 1991–2002
  • Dennis J. Johnson, interim president 2002–03
  • James L. Peterson, 2003–08
  • Jack R. Ohle, 2008–14


  • On January 8, 1970, the Auditorium was completely gutted by a fire, after which it was not rebuilt.
  • On March 29, 1998, the College's campus was hit by a mile-wide F3 tornado that broke 80 percent of the windows, leveled nearly 2,000 trees, toppled the chapel's spire, and caused more than $50 million in damages. This event is considered to be one of the most expensive college disasters in history. There was only one death (not a Gustavus student), despite the tornado's widespread path; this is most likely because most of the college's students were away on spring break at the time. Hundreds of volunteers worked to get the campus back into a condition where the students could return after a three-week hiatus. Still, students were forced to attend some classes in FEMA trailers as some on-campus buildings were too severely damaged.


A bust of Gustav II Adolf of Sweden on campus

Gustavus Adolphus is currently ranked among the best 100 national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report. In 2014, Gustavus ranked 76th rising from 85th in the 2013 rankings.[4] Students choose from over 70 programs of study with 75 majors in 24 academic departments and three interdisciplinary programs (including 14 honors majors), ranging from physics to religion to Scandinavian studies. The College's Writing Across the Curriculum program fosters writing skills in all academic disciplines. Since 1983, the college has had a chapter of the academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa. The school operates Curriculum II, an interdisciplinary general education program. Recently the college instituted a test-optional admission policy, making it the first private college in Minnesota to forgo the ACT/SAT score requirement on its application.


The campus features science facilities, computer and language labs, and a large, new dining facility. The college's Christ Chapel, which seats 1500 people, stands in the center of campus. Gustavus' first building in St. Peter, affectionately known as "Old Main," originally housed the entire college. Major renovations to the building were completed in 2005. In the Fall of 2011, a new social science center, Beck Hall, was opened on campus. The campus is graced by 33 sculptures by the late Minnesota sculptor, Paul Granlund, an alumnus of the college who for many years was sculptor-in-residence. Every tree indigenous to Minnesota is grown in the Linnaeus Arboretum. In 2009 students founded Big Hill Farm, which grows produce for the cafeteria and aims to connect the campus to sustainable agriculture.

Notable buildings[edit]

Christ Chapel, built in 1959–1961

Christ Chapel[edit]

Christ Chapel at Gustavus Adolphus College

Christ Chapel is a church located in the center of Gustavus Adolphus College. Constructed from March 2, 1959 to fall 1961, the chapel was dedicated on January 7, 1962. Construction of the chapel was made possible by gifts from the congregations of the Lutheran Augustana Synod, a predecessor body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is affiliated with the college. Ecumenical services are held each weekday and on Sundays during the academic year. There is seating for 1,500 people in the chapel, with 1,200 on the main floor and an additional 300 in the balcony. It is the largest seating area on campus.

The chapel and surrounding grounds are adorned by the sculptures of Paul T. Granlund, the former artist-in-residence at Gustavus Adolphus College.

The organ in Christ Chapel was originally built by Hillgreen-Lane at the time the Chapel was built. It has been significantly altered in the last 30 years. These renovations, carried out by David Engen and more recently by the Hendrickson Organ Company of St. Peter, include a new console with solid state combination and relay, moving several ranks of pipes from an antiphonal position in the basement into the main organ above the balcony, restructuring the Swell mixture, and extensive repairs following the tornado of 1998. It currently contains 55 speaking ranks of pipes, played from a four-manual console, and has a preparation on the new Great chest for a mounted Kornet V stop.[5]

The Chapel also houses a small portative organ of three stops on one manual which is used for accompanying and especially for continuo playing in Baroque compositions.

On March 29, 1998, the spire, which towers above the chapel, was toppled by a tornado that left most of St. Peter, Minnesota in ruins. On March 17, 2008, the cross that was atop the spire was hung from the ceiling in Christ Chapel during a service marking the 10-year anniversary of the tornado.

Campus life[edit]

The majority of the college's 2,600 students (known as "Gusties") live in residence halls on campus, in college-owned houses, and, a small minority, in theme areas, such as the Carlson International Center, CHOICE substance-free housing, and the Swedish House. Students with permission from the college may choose to live off-campus within the community of St. Peter or elsewhere.

Nearly 1/5 of students are active in Greek life at Gustavus, where there are currently nine recognized Greek organizations on campus. This includes several Greek organizations founded at Gustavus, including the Omega Kappa fraternity, Tau Mu Tau sorority, and the Tau Psi Omega fraternity (also known as the Reds).


Many musical ensembles perform throughout the year, including the Gustavus Choir, the Choir of Christ Chapel, the Lucia Singers, the Gustavus Adolphus Symphony Orchestra, Gustavus Wind Orchestra, Gustavus Jazz Lab Band, etc. Theater and Dance events are also a vibrant part of "Gustie Life", with shows every fall and spring and a musical every other year. There are also two art galleries on campus, the Hillstrom Museum of Art and the Schaefer Art Gallery. The college's dining service includes a cafeteria, the Market Place. The Princeton Review ranked Gustavus 8th in its "Best Campus Food" category for 2009.


Gustavus is a founding member of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, MIAC. Key sports at the college are tennis, swimming, golf, basketball, ice hockey, football, and soccer. The school's team name is the Golden Gusties, represented by a lion mascot because Gustavus Adolphus was known as "The Lion of the North." Gustavus has had three players drafted in the NFL Draft: Russ Buckley in 1940, Kurt Ploeger in 1985, and Ryan Hoag in 2003. On March 26th, 2014, Gustavus announced it would not continue its men's and women's Nordic skiing team. This will go in to affect in the 2014-2015 school year.

Varsity sports[edit]

The Gustavus women's softball team placed third in the NCAA Division III national tournament in 2009. The Gustavus men's hockey team placed second in the NCAA Division III national tournament in 2009. The Gustavus soccer team finished second in the NCAA Division III national tournament in 2005 — led in part by three-time all American Robert "Bobby" Kroog. In 2003 the Gustavus men's basketball team finished second in the NCAA Division III national tournament. In the middle of the twentieth century, the Gustavus football team was coached by long-time coach/AD Moose Malmquist. In addition, the women's hockey team has won seven conference titles, including six straight, and has placed in the top four nationally in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2010. The Gustavus men's tennis team have made 11 consecutive appearances at the NCAA Division III National Championships. Gustavus Adolphus College hosted the 2013 USTA/ITA Midwest Regional Championships at the Swanson Indoor Tennis Center and Brown Outdoor Courts in St. Peter, Minnesota. In 2003 Steve Wilkinson's squad placed third at the NCAA Division III Championships as well as a first place finish at the ITA Indoor Championships. Steve Wilkinson retired in 2009 as the winningest coach in college tennis history with a record of 929-279. Gustavus player Eric Butorac, closed out his senior season of 2003 by winning both the NCAA Division III singles and doubles championships, with Kevin Whipple as his partner. In 2003, Eric Butorac turned pro. He is now a doubles specialist, and has achieved success being the no. 3 ranked American doubles player for the bulk of the past six years.

Directors' Cup[edit]

Gustavus placed 8th in the 2008–09 Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings. The Directors' Cup is the only all-sports competition in intercollegiate athletics.[6] In Division III, standings are based on national tournament finishes in 18 sports. In 2002–03 Gustavus placed a school-best sixth in the Directors' Cup standings.


Gustavus Adolphus College is home to several publications and broadcasters:

  • The Gustavian Weekly, first published in 1920, is the campus newspaper. Its predecessor was the College Breezes. In addition, there were various other names for the student paper from June 1891 into 1902. Full-text digitized issues from 1920 through spring 2005 can be found through the Digital Collections page of the Gustavus Adolphus College Archives.
  • Firethorne is an arts and literary magazine published twice per year. Students submit short stories, poetry, creative nonfiction, photography, visual art, or other creative content.
  • KGSM is a webcast-only radio station operated entirely by students. The studio moved to the Beck Academic Hall in 2011 to improve the quality of its webstream and added a digital audio workstation.
  • The newest campus media outlet is GAC TV. Started by a group of students interested in bringing television broadcasting to campus, GAC TV became an instant success when students started watching the weekly show before free on-campus films.
  • The Gustavian yearbook publishes a yearbook for each class and dates back to 1920 with predecessor publications released under different names dating back to 1904.
  • TV broadcasts from Gustavus are released over Internet II.
  • An alumni magazine, the Gustavus Quarterly, features articles of interest to graduates.

Notable alumni[edit]

"Old Main" – the school relocated from East Union upon completion of this building in 1876
See also Category:Gustavus Adolphus College alumni

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°19′25″N 93°58′18″W / 44.3235555°N 93.971738°W / 44.3235555; -93.971738

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