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Story Magazine

First Quarter 2003

Breaking Down Barriers to Theological Education

by Jennifer Norris Peterson


"As a preacher's kid," says Dolores "Dee" Nord, "I know that pastors don't earn much money. It's very hard for them to pay back debt.We want to help seminary students pursue their callings without having to take on a large debt load.

"Our daughter, the Rev. Nancy Nord Bence '98, graduated from Luther Seminary. Some of her classmates had sizeable debts," Dee adds. "One borrowed almost $100,000 to cover undergraduate and seminary studies." (The average student debt load, among the 60 percent of Luther Seminary students who graduated in 2002 with debt, was $33,400.)

Bill Nord, Dee's spouse, served as treasurer of the Minneapolis Area Synod for five years. He worked closely with the Rev. David W. Olson, then bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod.

Bill says: "I gained enormous respect for the missional leadership of Bishop Olson and his wife Nancy. When the Olsons retired, I thought their friends would like to honor their leadership in a way that makes a real difference to the church's future."

Helping seminary students and at the same time honoring the Olsons, the Nords created the David W. and Nancy G. Olson Endowed Scholarship Fund at Luther Seminary.

The fund's purpose is: to provide financial support to deserving students in the Master of Divinity and Master of Arts programs. The endowment will bear tribute to the missionary character of the Olsons' ministry by giving preference to students expressing interest in new church development or mission efforts in this country or around the world.

The Nords gave a sizeable gift to Luther Seminary to create two charitable gift annuities, which pay out a fixed-rate income to the Nords each year throughout their lifetimes.

At the end of their lives, the gifts will go into the Olson Fund. "God willing, we still have a lot of living to do," Dee says, "so the dollars may not boost the scholarship fund for many years."

The Nords give current gifts for scholarships under the guidelines expressed in the Olson Fund.

"The Nords' gift was a surprise to us," says Nancy Olson."We appreciate their generosity deeply.We feel that the gift is a natural extension of our ministry." The Rev. David Olson says: "Mission gives energy and vitality to the church. Without it, the church is empty and dead. My favorite quotation is 'Mission is to the church as burning is to fire.'"

He traces his own deep interest in mission to joining a mission congregation, St. Timothy Lutheran Church in St. Paul, when he was 12 years old.

"We need to have more seminary students, more people in ministry," he adds. "We need the best quality candidates--people with a passion for God's mission."

The Olson Scholarship Fund will help recruit and sustain those candidates. The Olsons have made their own annual gifts as well as a deferred gift to the fund.

"Our hope for the fund," says Bill, "is that many more people will join us, as the Olsons have, in making gifts, both current and deferred. Together we can help people respondto God's call to ministry."

To inquire about making a deferred gift to the David W. and Nancy G. Olson Endowed Scholarship Fund, call Jenny Peterson toll-free at 888-358-8437.

To send current gifts, mail them to: Office of Seminary Relations, Luther Seminary, 2481 Como Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108.


To honor their friend's 25th anniversary of teaching, Joseph and Barbara Wall established the Richard W. Nysse Endowed Fund in Learning Systems and Technology at Luther Seminary.

Dr. Richard W. Nysse, professor of Old Testament and associate dean of learning systems and technology, has spurred Luther Seminary's embrace of technology for theological education.

The fund's purpose is to strengthen the seminary's ability to invest in and apply technology.

The Walls are greatly encouraged by the seminary's use of technology to remove barriers to becoming a pastor or leader in ministry. Students now can take up to one full year of coursework online at Luther Seminary. Students all over the United States and in some foreign countries are linked together in virtual classrooms.

Luther Seminary has taken additional steps to incorporate technology by: upgrading and expanding the Web site, outfitting "smart" classrooms with laptop hookups for students and Internet capacity for teaching, and offering daily devotions and a weekly stewardship newsletter by e-mail to subscribers at no charge.

Dr. Nysse says his dream "is for the walls around the seminary to become transparent so that people can look into the seminary and engage much more easily.We now send out information in new ways, but I would like to see Web-based feedback come back into the seminary.

Faculty, for example, could ask the broader community: 'What is gnawing at you with regard to preaching?' The responses would change us.

"The need for institutions to incorporate new technology is not going to go away once the current generation of technology is operational," Joe says. "New opportunities will keep arising. An endowed fund will provide annual income in perpetuity.We don't know what technology will be needed in 50-100 years, but the need to stay current will definitely continue."

Joe, senior vice president and chief technology officer for Pitney Bowes, says: "Computer technology makes a strong impact on many aspects of our lives. It is important for Luther Seminary to learn to use this technology in the training and teaching of pastors and lay leaders."

The Walls have been close friends of Dick and Lynn Nysse since graduate school days. They met at Christ Lutheran Church in Belmont, Mass., when Dick was pursuing a doctorate at Harvard Divinity School, and Joe was studying for his doctorate at M.I.T. Their friendship deepened when both families later moved to the Twin Cities, Dick to join the Luther Seminary faculty and Joe to work for Honeywell.

Barbara recalls: "It was amazing to find ourselves in the same city once again, halfway across the country." The Walls now live in Connecticut.

Barbara adds: "With what we see happening at Luther Seminary, our hope for the future of the church is great. Lay people need to support the seminary because most seminary alumni/ae do not make large incomes. A smaller percentage of the seminary budget today comes from the institutional church. So lay people need to step forward and make a difference by investing in the seminary."

To inquire about making a deferred gift to the Richard W. Nysse Endowed Fund for Learning Systems and Technology, call Jenny Peterson toll-free at 888-358-8437. To send current gifts, mail them to: Office of Seminary Relations, Luther Seminary, 2481 Como Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108.

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