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News Archives - 2005

August 26, 2005

Former Augsburg College President Oscar Anderson dies at 89

Oscar Anderson pictured speaking at Homecoming during his tenure as President

Oscar Anderson, one of the nation’s pre-eminent Lutheran preachers and president of Augsburg College from 1963-80, died Thursday, Aug. 25, 2005 at North Memorial Hospital in Minneapolis following injuries suffered from a recent fall. Anderson was 89.

The 8th president of Augsburg, Anderson was credited with defining Augsburg’s role as an urban college, while not losing its roots as both a liberal arts institution and a college of the church.

"My goal for Augsburg College was to make it an urban college, not only one recognized within the urban setting, but one utilizing the resources of a metropolitan setting,” he said in 1993 when the college dedicated Oscar Anderson residence hall in his name. “I think we got into the bloodstream of the city."

Former president Charles Anderson, who succeeded Oscar, said Oscar was instrumental, in terms of attitude, in bringing the college together with the city. “We always were here geographically,” Charles Anderson said, “but our institution moved considerably closer with the city in Oscar’s tenure. It was true then, and it remains so today.”

Born April 19, 1916 in Minneapolis, Oscar Anderson was educated at Minnehaha Academy and Augsburg before eventually receiving his bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College in 1938. He graduated from Luther Theological Seminary in 1942; his first pastorate was at Lake Harriet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, from 1942 to 1948. For the next six years he was the executive director of the International Young People’s Luther League of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. He went on to complete graduate study at Union Seminary in New York, an experience that heightened his awareness of contemporary trends in theological scholarship.

From the mid-1950s until his appointment as president at Augsburg, he served as senior pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead, Minn., where he established close ties with the academic community – both at Concordia College and Moorhead State.

After coming to Augsburg, Anderson presided over a tremendous period of growth and evolution at the college. At least five new buildings, including the college’s two tower residence halls, its student center, a new music building, and an ice arena, were built during his presidency.

A nationally known preacher, Anderson received many honors, including the Knight's Cross First Class of the Order of St. Olav from the Government ofNorway; the Paul Harris Fellow from Rotary International: the Distinguished Alumni Citation from both Augsburg and St. Olaf College; and the Distinguished Service Award from the City of Minneapolis.

“Oscar Anderson was president of the college during two crucial decades and supervised our transition from a college in the city that wished it were in the country to a college fully engaged with the city that had grown up around it,” noted William Frame, the current Augsburg president.

“As perhaps the best pulpit preacher of his time, Oscar employed a razor sharp and telling wit to guide the college and its alumni through this crucial transition. He had returned to the college frequently since his retirement and invariably brought that wit and powerful rhetoric with him.

“In fact, he had RSVP’d for an ice cream social at Augsburg House (the President’s residence) – which he had visited frequently – but his untimely fall prevented his attendance. We were sorry to miss him then, and I know we will all regret his absence in the days and years ahead.”

Anderson is survived by his children, Donna Hoekstra (Hal), Crystal Lake, Ill.; Randall Anderson, Los Angeles, Calif.; Sheldon Anderson (Kristie), Minneapolis, Minn.; Gracia Lindberg (Brad) Coon Rapids, Minn. He was preceded in death by his wife Leola.
A memorial service is planned for 4 p.m. at the College’s Hoversten Chapel on Thursday, Sept. 1. Memorial gifts are preferred to the Access to Excellence Campaign or the Leola G. Anderson Scholarship, both at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.