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President Emeritus Lloyd Svendsbye Memory Book

Former Luther Seminary president Dr. Lloyd Svendsbye died on Sunday, March 2, in Edina, Minn, surrounded by family and friends. He was 83.

Svendsbye served as president from 1975 to 1987, overseeing the merger of Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary and Luther Theological Seminary.

A native of North Dakota, Svendsbye held degrees from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., and Luther Seminary (1954). He was ordained as a Lutheran minister in 1955. He went on to study at the University of Erlangen in Germany, Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary, where he earned his Doctor of Theology degree. In addition to his time at Luther Seminary, Svendsbye served as president at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., and as vice president and dean of students at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. He was also the editor in chief of Augsburg Publishing House for five years.

Under Svendsbye's leadership, the Master of Arts degree was established, the first female professor was called to a tenure track position, the development office and the Lay School of Theology were established and the theological journal Word & World debuted.

In 1981, he was elected vice president of the American Lutheran Church and served on the Committee of Seventy for the formation of the ELCA.

After retiring, Svendsbye chronicled his ancestors' journeys from Norway to Western North Dakota in "I Paid All My Debts." He also served on the board of directors for various institutions. Throughout his life, he was very proud of his Norwegian heritage, participating in Mindekirken, Torske Klubben and Norway House. Svendsbye was also extremely proud that he had a personal audience with Pope John Paul II and hosted such dignitaries as King Olaf of Norway and President Gorbachev. Even though he had a very successful professional career, he took great pleasure in being a very simple North Dakota farm boy.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Anne; parents Anders and Gudrun Svendsbye; sisters Alice Vatne, Margaret Vatne, Lillian Nelson, Gladys Berg; and brother Albert Svendsbye. Survived by his brother, Edward Svendsbye; sisters Adeline Elverud and Jean Brusven; nieces; nephews; and many friends.

In lieu of flowers,memorials may be directed to Luther Seminary; Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn.; and Norway House. Visitations and a funeral service are planned for March 13-14 in Edina, Minn.:

  • Thursday, March 13: Visitation from 5-7 p.m. at Washburn-McReavy Funeral Chapel, 5000 W. 50th St., Edina
  • Friday, March 14: Visitation at 10 a.m.; funeral service at 11 a.m., Normandale Lutheran Church, 6100 Normandale Road, Edina; Interment at Lakewood Cemetery

During a time of personal struggle in the Christmas season of 1981, I received a phone call from Dr. Svendsbye. His act of concern and interest in me lifted my spirit and touched my heart more greatly than the Christmas celebration.

In addition, I saw in him this attribute: Though his positions of leadership set him apart from others, he never allowed them to set himself above the rest of us.

He was a saintly manifestation of the Gospel.
Robert Bilansky
Vista, CA
In the Svendsbye era, Luther Theological Seminary and Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary were led to new levels of excellence and national prominence as Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary. He strengthened the faculty and positioned the seminary for leadership in forming the ELCA. He and Anne gave generously and graciously of themselves, blessing the seminary, generations of students, and the church with wise courage. Thanks be to God for President Lloyd and Anne Svendsbye!
David L. Tiede
Luther College
Prof. of New Testament and President emeritus

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