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Students at commencement

Servant Leadership Award

Recognizing outstanding leadership in the community

The David W. Preus Leadership Award honors the contribution to civic and religious life by the Rev. Dr. David W. Preus, Bishop emeritus of the American Lutheran Church and volunteer leader in community and educational causes. Through his ecumenical and religious leadership and his commitment to the common good through educational, governmental, and community life, David Preus exemplified servant leadership for the sake of the church and the world.

Past recipients of the award were broadly representative community members recognized for their dedication to servant leadership through non-profit organizations for the betterment of society. In 2009, for the first time in its history, the award was granted to a student of Luther Seminary to recognize and to encourage outstanding leadership. We intend to continue the award in this way, granting it to a student to support a structured experience intended to build understanding and encourage outstanding leadership that expresses itself in service to others. The award is roughly $5,000.

The award presentation and related activities are coordinated by a sponsoring council, which is funded by an endowment raised by friends of Bishop David W. Preus and managed by Luther Seminary. In selecting honorees, the Preus Award Council seeks to follow Robert K. Greenleaf’s criterion for servant leadership. In his book, “The servant as Leader,” Greenleaf writes that the best way to measure servant leadership is to ask: “Do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”

Eligibility for award

The David W. Preus Servant Leadership Award provides the opportunity to pursue a 2-3 month servant leadership project. Students eligible for the award need to have at least part-time student status, be enrolled in a first theological degree program of Luther Seminary, and have completed at least one semester of academic work. The successful applicant will designate a project in one of the possible following arenas:

  • Servant leadership in civic life
  • Global servant leadership
  • Servant leadership in ecumenical or interfaith relationships
  • Congregational servant leadership

Timeline for award

Applications are due March 6th, 2015. The application form can be downloaded here, or picked up in Student Services, and requires two letters in addition to the proposal. The award will be announced at the beginning of April. The project needs to be completed by the end of Summer 2015, with the reflection report due by September 28, 2015.

Rev. Dr. David W. Preus

David W. Preus joined the Luther Seminary faculty as director of the Global Mission Institute and distinguished visiting professor in 1988, the same year he was named bishop emeritus of The American Lutheran Church (ALC). He retired from his positions at Luther Seminary in 1994.

Preus had served the ALC as vice president in 1968-73 and as president and presiding bishop in 1973-87. Ordained in 1950, Preus served pastorates in Brookings, S.D. (1950-51), Vermillion, S.D. (1952-57), and Minneapolis (1957-73). He was a vice president of the Lutheran World Federation and a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches.

A graduate of Luther College, Decorah, Iowa (1943) and Luther Seminary (1950), Preus has studied at the University of Minnesota Law School, the University of Edinburgh and Union Seminary.

He has been recognized with the Commander’s Cross, the royal Norwegian Order of St. Olaf, the St. George’s Medal from the Orthodox Church Georgia, the Anti-Defamation League’s Torch of Liberty, the Minnesota Religious Hall of fame Award from Temple Israel, St. Thomas Aquinas Medal from St. Thomas University, the Pax Christi Award from St. John’s University, and honorary doctorates and distinguished service awards from nine colleges and universities.

Watch "A Towel and Basin Man,"a video portrait of the life and ministry of David W. Preus.