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Historical Timeline

Luther throughout the years

In 1994 Luther Seminary marked its 125th anniversary with celebrations that included the publication of school history, entitled, Thanksgiving and Hope.

If you would like to receive a complimentary copy of Thanksgiving and Hope, please contact us and we will be happy to send you one.

Thanksgiving and Hope is a collection of essays chronicling the people, events and movements in the antecedent schools that have formed Luther Seminary:

  • Augsburg Seminary 1869-1963

  • Luther Theological Seminary 1876-1976

  • Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary 1920-1982


Augsburg Seminary joined Luther Theological Seminary in 1963. Luther Theological Seminary and Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary began merging in 1976, and completed full integration in 1982. The newly merged school was called Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary until 1994, when the name was changed to Luther Seminary.


Initial merger in 1917

Luther Theological Seminary was initially formed through the merger of three institutions in 1917 in conjunction with the merger of three Norwegian Lutheran Churches.

Each of the three churches operated a seminary: the Norwegian Synod operated Luther Seminary, located near Hamline Ave. in St. Paul; the Hauge Synod operated Red Wing Seminary in Red Wing, Minn.; and the United Norwegian Lutheran Church operated the United Church Seminary on a portion of the present site of Luther Seminary in St. Paul. The merged seminaries occupied the site of the United Church Seminary on Como Ave. and Luther Place, and retained the name of the oldest of the three schools, namely, Luther Theological Seminary, which had been founded in 1876.

Luther Theological Seminary and Augsburg Seminary

When Luther Theological Seminary was united with Augsburg Seminary in 1963, Luther, through the process of merger, assumed the earlier founding date of 1869.

Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary traces its origin to the Chicago Lutheran Divinity School, begun in Chicago in 1920 following action taken by the English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the Northwest, a synod of the United Lutheran Church in America. In 1921, the seminary was moved to Fargo, N.D., and the following year to Minneapolis. From 1921 to 1982, its name was Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary. Located in north Minneapolis from 1922 to 1940 and in the former Pillsbury mansion in south Minneapolis for the next 27 years, it moved to the campus of Luther Theological Seminary in 1967.

At the time of the formation of the Lutheran Church in America in 1962, Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary was placed under the jurisdiction of two supporting synods: the Minnesota Synod and the Red River Valley Synod.

Luther and Northwestern

Desiring to make a witness to their common faith, Luther and Northwestern Seminaries functionally unified in 1976, beginning with a single administration. After a period of six years, during which a common curriculum as well as common admission and graduation requirements were developed and cross-registration was encouraged among the student bodies, the governing agencies of the two seminaries set in motion the planning process which culminated in the establishment of a single seminary on July 1, 1982, known as Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary.

As of Jan. 1, 1988, Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary became affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) formed by a merger of three national bodies, The American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and the Lutheran Church in America.

The name Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary was changed to Luther Seminary on July 1, 1994.

In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), theological education is supervised and directed by the Division for Ministry. Luther Seminary is the largest of eight ELCA seminaries in the United States providing theological education to equip people for ministry.


The Seminary and the Church


The World and the Nation
Diderikke Brandt (wife of Pastor Nils Brandt) organizes sewing circles to raise money for seminary students 1850s
Formation of Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Northern Illinois 1851
Norwegian Synod founded 1853



   1854 Commodore Perry "opens" Japan to the West
   1858 Minnesota becomes a state

First Atlantic cable laid

   1859 Charles Darwin writes On the Origin of the Species
Scandinavian Augustana Synod formed 1860




August Weenaas becomes professor at Scandinavian Augustana Synod seminary in Paxton, Ill. 1868
Augsburg Seminary founded in Marshall, Wis. 1869
August Weenaas named president of Augsburg Seminary 1869
   1861 Civil War begins
   1861 Charles Dickens publishes Great Expectations
   1863 Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation
   1865 Civil War ends


Nobel invents dynamite
   1869 Completion of transcontinental railway
   1869 Suez Canal opened
Norwegians withdraw from Augustana Synod 1870
Mrs. August Weenaas assists husband in early days of Augsburg College 1870s
Augsburg Seminary moved to Minneapolis 1872
St. Olaf College founded as co-educational school 1874

Georg Sverdrup named president of Augsburg Seminary

Norwegian Synod's Luther Seminary founded on Hamline Ave, St. Paul 1876






J.D. Rockefeller founds Standard Oil Co.
   1876 National Baseball League founded
   1877 Bell invents telephone
   1879 Ibsen produces "A Doll's House"


Mission Society founded with Erick Tou (1889) and J.P. Nogstad (1887) to Madagascar 1885
Anti-Missourian Brotherhood formed 1887
   1880 Dostoevsky publishes The Brothers Karamozov
   1883 Northern Pacific Railroad completed
   1885 Daimler invents internal combustion engine


Federation of Labor founded

Benjamin Harris elected U.S. president


George Eastman perfects "Kodak" camera

Valborg Hovind Stub (Mrs. H. G. Stub) teaches voice at Luther Seminary 1890s
United Norwegian Lutheran Church (United Church) founded 1890
Faculty grows to five 1891
"United Church Seminary" begun in St. Anthony Park, St. Paul 1892
M. O. Bockman elected president 1892
Sverdrup and Oftedal resign as professors of United Church 1893



Lutheran Free Church formed 1897






Beginning of wireless telegraphy
   1894 Sibelius composes "Finlandia"


Spanish-American War begins
   1898 British obtain 99 year lease on Hong Kong
Augsburg Seminary and College New Main building completed 1901





President Georg Svendrup dies 1907
   1901 Queen Victoria dies
   1903 Wright brothers make first powered flight
   1903 Ford Motor Co. founded
   1905 Einstein states First Theory of Relativity
   1905 Haakon VII crowned king of independent Norway
   1906 San Francisco earthquake
   1909 Freud lectures on psycho-analysis in U.S.
George Svendrup (son of Georg) elected president 1911
Half of faculty teach in English, half teach in Norwegian 1911
Lena Dahl (Mrs. T. H. Dahl) starts Women's Missionary Federation, builds mission house at Luther Seminary 1911





Merger of three Norwegian Church bodies forms Norwegian Lutheran Church in America. (Name changed to Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1947). 1917
Hauge Synod school, Red wing Seminary, joins in merger to form Luther Theological Seminary 1917
Hauge Synod's Mission Dove Society (an early women's missionary group) comes into Evangelical Lutheran Church, builds mission housing on campus 1917
Mary Wee (Mrs. M.O. Wee) organizes Seminary Faculties wives 1917
Hamline site sold.
Faculty totals 10
Several Luther Theological Seminary students see active service in World War I 1918-1919
   1910 Stravinsky's "The Firebird" premieres




Sun Yet Sen elected president of China
   1912 Titanic sinks

Gandhi arrested; passive resistance movement in India grows

   1914 Panama Canal opened







World War I begins
   1918 Lenin assumes power and founds Soviet Union
   1919 Versailles Armistice ends World War I
   1919 League of Nations founded

Karl Barth writes The Epistle to the Romans


U.S. House of Representatives moves to curtain immigration

Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary opened in Chicago as seminary of the Synod of the Northwest (ULCA) after split with Maywood, Ill. 1920
Joseph Stump first president 1920
Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary located in Fargo, N.D. 1921
Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary located in northeast Minneapolis until 1940 1922
Augsburg College becomes a co-ed institution 1922
Luther Theological Seminary catalog reflects Norwegian-English bilingual emphasis 1924
First issue of Northwestern Seminary Bulletin published 1924
Women's Missionary Societies provide funds for returned missionaries on Northwestern Theological Seminary campus 1926



Warren Harding elected president
   1921 Charlie Chaplin's "The Kid" premieres





T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland published
   1925 Scopes Trial begins in Tennessee over theory of evolution
   1925 Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby published
   1926 First demonstration of television
   1927 Lindbergh makes first solo transatlantic flight
   1929 Wall Street crash triggers Great Depression
M.O. Bockman retires, T. F. Gullixson named president 1930



Augsburg Academy closes, height of Depression 1933
Internship year added to program 1934



George Svendrup dies at age 58 1937
Bernhard M. Christensen elected president of Augsburg College and Seminary 1938
Internship program added to curriculum 1939
   1930 The planet Pluto discovered
   1931 U.S. population hits 122 million
   1932 Franklin Delano Roosevelt elected president


Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany
   1935 Dust Bowl
   1936 Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at Berlin Olympic games


Chiang Kai-Shek declares war on Japan

   1938 Munich Conference between Hitler and Chamberlain
   1939 Germany invades Poland
   1939 World War II begins

"Gone with the Wind" premieres

Pillsbury Mansion in south Minneapolis bought and refurbished for $50,000 1940
145 women form the Northwestern Theological Seminary Auxiliary 1940
Gracia Christensen (Mrs. Bernard Christensen) establishes "Seminettes" 1940s
Condensed program for preparation of pastors during World War II 1941
Augsburg Seminary and Augsburg College formally separate 1942
Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary football team challenges Luther Theological Seminary to game 1942




The Battle of Britain begins
   1941 Hong Kong falls to Japanese



Dec. 7 Japan attacks Pearl Harbor

   1944 June 6 Allies land on Normandy

Sartre published No Exit

   1945 May 8 VE Day, Victory in Europe

Aug. 6 Atomic Age begins with bombing of Hiroshima

   1945 Aug. 16 VJ Day, Victory in Japan
   1946 First meeting of United Nations General Assembly
   1947 Dead Sea Scrolls discovered

India receives independence

   1948 Gandhi assassinated
   1949 Apartheid begins in South Africa
Student Wives Organization starts at Luther Seminary 1950s
Faculty Wives continues with Nora Rogness' leadership 1950s
B.M. Christensen suggests discussion of merger of Lutheran Free Church with other Lutheran bodies 1950
Gullixson appointed by president Truman to Federal Commission on Resettlement 1952


Gullixson resigns; Alvin Rogness elected president 1954
Concord begins publication as a theological journal 1955
Bockman Hall (Old Main) remodeled 1955
"Seminettes" founded as seminary wives social group 1956
Dr. Clemens Zeidler becomes president of Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary (1957-1976) 1957
   1950 Outbreak of Korean War

Britain recognizes communist China




National Council of Church in U.S. founded

   1952 Hydrogen bomb tested


Reinhold Niebuhr publishes Christ and Culture




Blacks boycott busses in Montgomery, Ala.
   1956 Hungarian uprising suppressed by Soviet troops
   1956 Elvis Presley number 1 on charts
   1957 Sputnik launched by Soviet Union
   1957 Desegregation crisis in Little Rock, Ark.
   1958 NASA founded
   1959 Fidel Castro become president of Cuba
The American Lutheran Church (The ALC) formed 1960
Lutheran Church in America (LCA) founded 1962




Lutheran Free Church joins The ALC 1963
LCA Board of Theological Education recommends Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary seek closer ties to Luther Theological Seminary 1963
Augsburg Seminary closes and three members of that faculty move to Luther Theological Seminary. Last of total of 710 men graduate 1963
Discussion begins between boards of Luther and Northwestern Seminaries to lease land from Luther 1964
First woman theological candidate accepted 1964
First meeting of Luther-Northwestern Seminary Coordinating Committee to plan integration of the two school's programs 1966



Luther and Northwestern class schedules integrated.

Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary's own building completed on Luther Theological Seminary campus 1967
New Northwestern building on Luther campus furnished with Auxiliary funding 1967
Northwestern Seminary moves to former Breck School site 1967



Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary joins Consortium of Minnesota Seminaries 1969


Dean Robert Roth represents Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary student protest over the Vietnam War to leaders in Washington D.C. 1969
   1960 John F. Kennedy elected president
   1961 Berlin Wall erected
   1962 Cuban missile crisis
   1962 U.S. Troops move to support Vietnam
   1962 Vatican II convenes
   1962 John Glenn first American to orbit earth






John F. Kennedy assassinated
   1964 Kenya gains independence; other African countries follow
   1964 The Beatles appear on Ed Sullivan Show
   1965 Cultural Revolution launched in China
   1966 U.S. population nears 196 million
   1966 United Methodist Church formed in U.S. with 11 million members
   1967 "Six-Day War" between Israel and Arab nations




Hanoi bombed by U.S. planes
   1968 Student riots in U.S. and France
   1968 Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated
   1969 Neil Armstrong sets foot on Moon from Apollo 11
   1969 Golda Meir becomes prime minister of Israel
   1969 Woodstock Festival
   1969 Ho Chi Minh dies
The Bell becomes news and development publication 1970
First women ordained in The American Lutheran Church (The ALC) and Lutheran Church in America (LCA) 1970
Kathryn Ulvilden Moen organist and choir director at Northwestern Seminary 1970




Northwestern and Luther Seminaries invited by University of Minnesota to have seminary students enroll in Human Sexuality course 1972





Annelotte Svendsbye forms united group called, LTS Women 1974
Alvin Rogness resigns 1974
Lloyd Svendsbye elected president of Luther Theological Seminary 1975
Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary receives Association of Theological Schools accreditation 1975
Faculty Wives re-emerges as its own group 1975
Full-fledged Development Department formed 1975
Lloyd Svendsbye elected Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary president 1976
"Maximal Functional Unification" between Luther and Northwestern Seminaries begins 1976
Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary library moved to Luther Theological Seminary's Gullixson Hall 1976
Northwestern bookstore merged with Luther bookstore 1976
Food service merged, though two sites exist on campus 1976
2,000 women members of Auxiliary 1977
Master of arts degree program started 1977
First woman in administration post, Elizabeth Beissel, as assistant dean of students 1977
Curriculum revision follows self-study 1977





Charles DeGaulle dies
   1971 "Fiddler on the Roof" longest running Broadway play



Vietnam War expands with bombing in Cambodia
   1972 Nixon visits China
   1973 Lyndon Johnson dies
   1973 U.S. troops withdraw from Vietnam
   1973 Violence between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland at new high
   1973 "Energy Crisis" at peak


Richard M. Nixon is impeached and resigns presidency over Watergate
   1975 Communists seize Saigon





Fifth Assembly of World Council of Churches in Nairobi, Kenya
   1976 U.S. celebrates bicentennial







Pol Pot comes to power in Cambodia




President Jimmy Carter warns of national "malaise"
   1978 Camp David Accord between Israel and Egypt
   1978 U.S. Congress debates Equal Rights Amendment
   1978 917 die at Jonestown, Guyana
Lloyd Svendsbye advocates full merger of two schools with joint board support 1980
Lay School of Theology starts with 150 students 1980
Word & World, Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary journal debuted 1981


Full merger secured and name changed to, Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary 1982
Diane Jacobson first woman in tenure eligible position 1982
Cross-cultural concentration master's degree adopted

Paul Knutson appointed as first campus pastor




Chapel of Incarnation and Campus Center dedicated. 
Chapel of the Cross retained.
Faculty supports development of doctoral program 1985
Half of student are second-career students 1986




Former bishop Gib Fjellman serves nine-month interim presidency 1987
Doctor of theology degree program begins 1987
"Singing the Faith" annual Reformation event begins 1987
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America formed 1988
(September) David L. Tiede elected president of Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary 1988
David Preus, former presiding bishop of The American Lutheran Church, named first director of Global Mission Institute 1988
Auxiliary name changed to Luther Northwestern Friends 1989
Faculty Wives group ceases. Friends organization covers many functions. late 1980s



Ronald Reagan elected president
   1981 AIDS first recognized as disease






Sandra Day O'Connor first woman on Supreme Court

Walter Mondale selects Geraldine Ferraro as democratic vice-presidential candidate





Mikhail Gorbachev becomes USSR leader/reformer
   1986 Martin Luther King Day celebrated first time
   1986 Nuclear disaster at Chernobyl
   1987 Minnesota Twins wins World Series
   1987 Wall Street crash


Iran Contra Hearings begins
   1988 George Bush elected president




Federal deficit hits $3 trillion
   1989 Tiananmen Square demonstration put down
   1989 Berlin Wall comes down
   1989 Exxon "Valdez" causes largest ever oil spill
   1989 San Francisco earthquake
Rural Ministry program begun with appointment of C. Dean Freudenberger 1990
Master of sacred music degree program begins 1990



Seminary clusters begin. Luther Theological Seminary linked with Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, Calif. to form Western Mission Cluster 1992
Revised curriculum implemented/faculty divisions revised 1993
Library bar codes all books, fully automating collection 1993
Faculty and staff offices fitted for computers 1993
Islamic Studies master of arts degree program begins 1993
School's name changed to Luther Seminary 1994

Non-ELCA Lutheran students make up 13% of student body. 18% (nine individuals) of faculty are women. 50% of student body is female.

Bea Vue-Benson ordained as first Hmong (woman) pastor 1995
Smoking banned in seminary buildings 1997
Augsburg Publishing and Seminary Bookstore share space 1998
   1990 U.S. responds to Iraqi invasion of Kuwait
   1990 Germany reunified under Helmut Kohl
   1990 Gorbashev visits Minnesota
   1991 "Desert Storm" in Iraq
   1991 Soviet Union dissolved; Cold War ends
   1992 War begins in Bosnia








Bill Clinton elected president



Yitzhak Rabin assassinated in Israel


Hong Kong returns to Chinese control
   1999 President Clinton impeached but not convicted
14% of students are ecumenical, 37 non-Lutheran denominations, 50 int'l 2000
Centered Life initiative begun  2001
Richard Bliese appointed Academic Dean 2003
David Tiede retires as president after 18 years
Richard Bliese named president
Distributed Learning M.Div. program begun 2007 launched 2007 launched 2009
Vibrant Congregations Project grant awarded by the Lilly Endowment 2009
Rick Foss named interim president 2012
Robin Steinke named president 2014


   2000 Disputed presidential election decided by Supreme Court, Bush elected
   2001 9/11 - Two planes crash into World Trade towers in NYC
   2001 U.S. invades Afghanistan
   2003 U.S. invades Iraq
    2008  Barack Obama elected president
   2012 Barack Obama re-elected president