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Saint Olaf College

St. Olaf College is a coeducational, residential, four-year, private liberal arts college in Northfield, Minnesota, United States. It was founded in 1874 by a group of Norwegian-American immigrant pastors and farmers, led by Pastor Bernt Julius Muus. The college is named after the King and the Patron Saint Olaf II of Norway.



1520 St Olaf Ave
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Additional Information

College Type
Religious Affiliation
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Campus Housing
Black Gold
Minnesota Intercollegiate

College History


Many Norwegian immigrants arrived in Rice County, Minnesota, and the surrounding area in the late 19th century. With nearly all the immigrants being Lutheran Christians, they desired a non-secular post-secondary institution in the Lutheran tradition that offered classes in all subjects in both Norwegian and English. The catalyst for founding St. Olaf was the Reverend Bernt Julius Muus, and he sought out the help of the Rev. N.A. Quammen and H. Thorson. Together they petitioned their parishes and others to raise money in order to buy a plot of land on which to build this new institution. The three men succeeded in receiving around $10,000 in pledges, and thus went on to form a corporation and to buy a plot of land and four buildings (old Northfield schoolhouses) for accommodations for the school. St. Olaf, then called St. Olaf's School, opened on January 8, 1875 at its first site under the leadership of its first president, Thorbjorn Mohn, a graduate of Luther College. Herman Amberg Preus, President of the Norwegian Synod, laid this foundation stone of the St. Olaf School on July 4, 1877. During 1887 the Manitou Messenger was founded as a campus magazine and has since evolved into the college's student newspaper.

College Specialty


St. Olaf, a four-year college of the ELCA, provides an education committed to the liberal arts, rooted in the Christian Gospel, and incorporating a global perspective. In the conviction that life is more than a livelihood, it focuses on what is ultimately worthwhile and fosters the development of the whole person in mind, body and spirit. Now in its second century, St. Olaf College remains dedicated to the high standards set by its Norwegian immigrant founders. In the spirit of free inquiry and free expression, it offers a distinctive environment that integrates teaching, scholarship, creative activity, and opportunities for encounter with the Christian Gospel and God�s call to faith. The college intends that its graduates combine academic excellence and theological literacy with a commitment to lifelong learning. St. Olaf College strives to be an inclusive community, respecting those of differing backgrounds and beliefs. Through its curriculum, campus life, and off-campus programs, it stimulates students� critical thinking and heightens their moral sensitivity; it encourages them to be seekers of truth, leading lives of unselfish service to others; and it challenges them to be responsible and knowledgeable citizens of the world. St. Olaf College, through International and Off-Campus Studies, creates and provides programs that serve the mission of the College at sites in the United States and abroad. These programs are characterized by the integration of academic and experiential education. The experiential component of these programs amplifies and extends the liberal learning that occurs on campus and enhances students� global perspective by helping them encounter and understand changes confronting our world in a context of global community and world citizenship.



Composers and conductors Kenneth Jennings, class of 1950 Dale Warland, class of 1954 Ren� Clausen, class of 1974 Anton Armstrong, class of 1978 Timothy Mahr, class of 1978 Bradley Ellingboe, class of 1980 Politicians Andrew Volstead, class of 1881 August H. Andresen, class of 1912 Al Quie, class of 1950 Arlen Erdahl, class of 1953 David Minge, class of 1963 Arnie Arnesen, class of 1975 John Marty, class of 1978 Steve Sviggum, class of 1979 Writers Ole Rolvaag, class of 1905 Siri Hustvedt, class of 1977 Emily Rapp, class of 1996 Other Roger Grimsby, class of 1950, television news anchor Barry Morrow, class of 1970, Oscar-winning screenwriter Gretchen Morgenson, class of 1976, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist



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