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Story Magazine

Spring/Summer 2014

Lloyd Svendsbye, 1930-2014

by Story staff

Former Luther Seminary president Dr. Lloyd Svendsbye, '54, died on Sunday, March 2, in Edina, Minn., surrounded by family and friends. He was 83.

His funeral service was held at Normandale Lutheran Church in Edina on Friday, March 14. Svendsbye planned his entire funeral service, and asked his friend, Rod Olson, '63, to preach.

"He saw the image of God in every person—from the nervous little freshman in his religion class to the one who has made a significant mark in the world," said Olson as he remembered Svendsbye. "And in his long tenure in education, he had seen many nervous freshmen become successful in their chosen fields."

Svendsbye served as president from 1975 to 1987, overseeing the merger of Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary and Luther Theological Seminary. He was a member of the commission that formed the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 1987.

A native of North Dakota, Svendsbye held degrees from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., (1951) 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 service at Luther Seminary, Svendsbye was president of Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., and 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 and served as the vice president of the American Lutheran Church.

Under Svendsbye's leadership at Luther Seminary, 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 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," said David Tiede, president emeritus. "He strengthened the faculty and positioned the seminary for leadership in forming the ELCA. He and [his wife, Anne,] gave generously and graciously of themselves, blessing the seminary, generations of students and the church with wise courage."

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. Even though he had a very successful professional career, he took great pleasure in being a simple North Dakota farm boy.

"Lloyd was a dear friend to a great many people. He was a gift to the church. He was a gift to Normandale congregation. He was a gift to our colleges, to our publishing house and to Luther Seminary," Olson said. "We have been so blessed because Lloyd Svendsbye has been part of our lives. Thank you, dear God, for this wonderful man."

To read others' memories of Lloyd Svendsbye—and contribute your own—visit

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