More Than 110 Years of Academic Excellence
Concordia University was founded in 1893 to provide a Christian learning environment for high school students preparing to enter the professional ministries of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The first students were welcomed to class on September 13, 1893, in temporary quarters next to Zion Lutheran Church in St. Paul. The following year, Concordia spent $22,000 to purchase five acres and several buildings previously owned by the state training school for boys in its current location midway between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.
In the next decade, Concordia continued to grow, adding a fourth year of high school, and then freshman and sophomore college years. Concordia's early success fueled new construction projects on campus, including the Gymnasium (converted in the 1950s to Graebner Memorial Chapel) and Recitation Hall (now Meyer Hall). Dr. Theodore Buenger served as Concordia St. Paul's professor and first director.
Concordia earned accreditation as a two-year college in 1921. The change made it possible for Concordia High School students to remain at their high school alma mater to complete their first two years of college work before transferring to a Concordia senior college where they would finish their studies in the church professions or teaching. Rev. Martin A.H. Graebner was installed in 1927 as Concordia's second president, serving until 1946.
The college continued to thrive until 1931 when the effects of the financial panic of 1929 and the Great Depression caused enrollments to drop precipitously from 282 to 131. There were far fewer pulpits available than pastors to fill them, and The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod considered closing the college for a year or two to wait out the financial slump. Budgets were slashed, three residence halls stood empty, students worked around campus without pay, and food donations from congregations helped supplement the school's food service. It was, perhaps, the most difficult era in the history of Concordia, but the college survived.
As the United States entered World War II, Concordia's fortunes once again shifted in a more positive direction. Enrollment was on the upswing and Concordia was poised to help respond to a growing shortage of pastors in The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. In 1943, Concordia celebrated a half century as an institution. During this time, planning and fundraising for a new library began in earnest, but the project stalled for nearly a decade in the wake of post-war inflation and growing enthusiasm for another new construction on campus - the Lutheran Memorial Center, a gymnasium/auditorium and memorial to those who served in the war. Rev. W.A. Poehler was installed in 1946 as the third president at Concordia, serving the campus community until 1970.
Concordia admitted its first class of female students in fall 1950, much to the delight of the young men on campus and to the dismay of coeducational opponents who predicted a significant drop in academic achievement. Despite this new "distraction," students continued to excel in their studies. Concordia entered a decade of intense expansion and growth. The college began granting Associate in Arts degrees in 1951 and began seeking North Central Association accreditation for the junior college in earnest. Major changes in various administrative functions and academic management, more manageable teaching loads and greater emphasis on faculty with graduate degrees finally produced the desired results and Concordia College earned accreditation in 1959.
New buildings dedicated during the 1950s included Buenger Memorial Library (1951), Lutheran Memorial Center (1953); Centennial Hall (1957), Minnesota Hall (1958) and Walther Hall (1959). In addition, the original gymnasium was converted into Graebner Memorial Chapel.
Concordia expanded its curriculum in 1962 to include a four-year college degree and awarded its first Bachelor of Arts degrees two years later. By 1967, Concordia had earned accreditation for its four-year liberal arts program, which allowed the college to join the Minnesota Private College Council. Concordia High School officially separated itself from the college, moved to its suburban location and adopted its new name, Concordia Academy.
With mushrooming enrollment, Concordia enjoyed another decade of expansion with the construction of another student residence, Wollaeger Hall, and Arndt Science Hall. The Poehler Administration Building, Buetow Music Center and the Student Union were constructed and dedicated in the 1970s.
The college responded to a growing need for minority teachers in the public schools by forming Metropolitan Teacher Education Program Selection (M-TEPS), which enrolled African-American and other under-represented students in a program designed to supplement the curriculum with personal counseling, tutoring as needed, academic planning and similar services. The program was reformed in 1983 as the Southeast Asian Teacher (SEAT) Licensure Program, which serves Hmong and other minority populations in a similar fashion.
Concordia was served during these years by four presidents: Rev. Harvey Stoegemoeller (1971-1976), Rev. Gerhardt Hyatt (1976-1984), Rev. Allan Harre (1984-1989) and Dr. John Johnson (1989-1991).
Concordia inaugurated Rev. Dr. Robert Holst as its eighth president in 1991 and celebrated its centennial in 1993. The college launched a successful fund-raising campaign that would provide for additional building and expansion. The major curricular development of the period was the formation in 1985 of a pioneering program that allowed students to complete their B.A. degree and, later, their M.A. degree, in an accelerated format. The first of its kind in Minnesota, today the College of Business and Organizational Leadership, which administers Concordia's accelerated degree completion, online and master's degree formats, represents more than half of the institution's enrollments.
Hyatt Village residence hall was dedicated in 1984, and in the 1990s, Gangelhoff Center and the theater addition to the Fine Arts complex were dedicated.
As the university moved into the new millennium, the institution implemented a number of important changes that would reflect the changing needs of the students, the church and the community. Foremost among these was restructuring that enabled Concordia to become a university. In 1997, the college became Concordia University, St. Paul, and adopted the semester system.
The university also developed its current mission and vision statements and refined its strategic priorities. Its new focus led to the formation of departments in three colleges: College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies. In 2002, the College of Vocation and Ministry was added to coordinate the university's programs for church professionals and to enhance the understanding of all Concordia students of how they serve God and humanity in whatever vocation they choose. In 2006, the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies was refocused and many of the programs that were in that college are now in the College of Business and Organizational Leadership.
In 1999, Concordia became the first NCAA Division II university in the Twin Cities. Critics feared Concordia would fare poorly against the larger, more established teams, but the newly renamed Golden Bears teams showed their heart right away. Since the switch, Golden Bears teams have brought home NSIC championships in baseball, women's basketball, football, women's golf, softball and volleyball. History was made when the Golden Bear women's volleyball team won its third consecutive NCAA Division II Volleyball Championship in December, 2009 by defeating West Texas A&M. The Golden Bears won their first National Championship in 2007 by defeating Western Washington and a second in 2008 with a win over Cal State San Bernardino.
Concordia University was the first private, four-year institution in the state of Minnesota to become a "laptop campus," providing a laptop computer to all full-time students. It paved the way for more streamlined communication across campus and provided new innovations in the way education was delivered to students. Now, students have wireless access to the Concordia servers from nearly everywhere on campus, giving them a virtual world of information at their fingertips.
In 2003, Concordia celebrated the conclusion of Enlightening Individuals, Enriching Generations, a five-year, $32 million, comprehensive campaign - the largest in Concordia history. Gifts from alumni and friends, which totaled $35.5 million, allowed the university to build a much-needed and long-awaited Library Technology Center, dedicated in 2003. The 46,000 square foot building includes seven new classrooms, centralizes technology support staff and provides an appealing new entrance point to campus.
In 2008, Concordia was pleased to announce the completion of the Residence Life Center (RLC). This announcement was followed by a Service of Dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony, celebratory chapel service, campus picnic and pig roast. The RLC is an apartment-style residence hall that houses 300 upperclassmen. Opened in the fall of 2008, this building has 4-bedroom, 2-bedroom and studio-style units. Each suite includes a private bathroom, kitchen, living room and bedroom furnishings. Building amenities include a fitness center, laundry facility and media room.
Before Concordia's 2008 Homecoming Game, a donation of five million dollars was presented by Phil Fandrei on behalf of the Sea Foam Sales Company to be used toward the new football stadium project. The stadium, named Sea Foam Stadium, seats about 3,500 spectators and includes a football/soccer field with artificial turf, running track, scoreboard, lights, bleachers, parking, concession facilities, locker rooms, weight room, press box, outdoor plaza and inflatable dome during the winter months. Construction wrapped up in the fall of 2009, with the football, soccer and outdoor track & field teams enjoying the facility for the first time in 2009-10.
Concordia University continues to grow to meet the needs of students, the church and the community, while at the same time holding steadfast its historical values and mission.