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Augustana College in Sioux Falls - The Early Years

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Ladies Hall (L) and Old Main, Augustana College, Sioux Falls

Originally founded in Chicago, Illinois, in 1860, Augustana moved west with the people. The “college on wheels” stopped at several points — Paxton, Illinois; Marshall, Wisconsin; Beloit, Iowa; Canton, South Dakota — before finally reaching its permanent home in 1918. Augustana University recently celebrated 100 years in Sioux Falls!

The final move occurred because of big changes in the Lutheran Church. The 1917 merger of the Hauge Synod, the Norwegian Synod, and the United Church joined over 90% of America’s Norwegian Lutheran population together in a single church body, the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America (NLCA).

Though long hoped for, the merger created a problem for the people of southeastern South Dakota. The newly created NLCA was now responsible for both Augustana College in Canton (part of the former United Church Synod) and Lutheran Normal School in Sioux Falls (which was founded in 1889 to train teachers for the Norwegian Synod). Having two institutions about 20 miles apart in direct competition with each other was unsustainable.

After heated debate over the best location for a unified institution, the two schools were officially consolidated in Sioux Falls on August 14, 1918.

Augustana College and Normal School, as it was now known, initially functioned as a junior college and normal school. During the 1918-19 academic year, the institution offered several programs of study — high school and academic courses of four years; a domestic science course of four years; teacher’s courses of one, two, four, and six years; commercial courses of one, two, and four years; opportunities in music studies — and was in the process of developing a four-year college course.

Much has changed in the last 100 years. Let’s have a look at what going to college at Augustana was like a century ago.

(All images courtesy of The Center for Western Studies, Sioux Falls.)

Old Main

There were four buildings on the 50-acre campus at the beginning of the 1918 academic year. The first, now referred to as Old Main (left), was built in 1889. In 1918, it housed classrooms, administration offices, the library and reading room, chapel, and in the basement, a laundry specifically for female students to do their washing and ironing.

In 1918, the college library housed about 500 volumes, in addition to various newspaper and periodical subscriptions.

Boys Dorm

The second building was constructed in 1894. In addition to being the men’s dormitory in 1918, it included a large recitation room, the college book store, and housed the domestic science department, where students learned meal planning and preparation for the individual, family, and large groups.

Ladies Hall

Completed in 1905, Ladies’ Hall served as the women’s dormitory with a kitchen and dining room in the basement.

According to the 1918-19 college catalog, students living in the dormitories were required to bring with them “4 sheets, 4 pillow cases, 1 pillow, 1 pair blankets, 2 quilts, 1 mattress pad, 4 towels, 4 bath towels, wash clothes, 1 white bed spread, 1 bureau scarf, 1 napkin ring and napkins.”

Model School for Teacher Training

Originally built in 1900, Lutheran Normal’s former hospital building received an addition in the summer of 1918 and became a model school where student teachers could practice teaching. There were 50 elementary students enrolled at the school in the 1918-19 academic year.

Administration Building

A fifth structure, the current Administration Building, was under construction during the 1918-19 academic year at an estimated cost of $100,000. The next proposed construction project, a gymnasium, was on hold until sufficient funds could be raised. It would be nearly 20 years before this structure was completed.

In 1918, there was no internet to be had, but the campus buildings did have telephone lines. Old Main and the men’s dormitory were still lit with gas, but Ladies’ Hall had electric lights! And what did these amenities cost? Board fees (meals, room, heat, and light) would depend on the market but had cost $140 the previous year. Tuition for the 1918-19 academic year was $40. Parents who sent two or three students at the same time received tuition reductions of 25 or 33 percent, respectively.

H.S. Hilleboe, First Augustana President

H. S. Hilleboe, who had served as president of Lutheran Normal School the previous year, was selected as the first president of Augustana College and Normal School.

Augustana Faculty

To transition from a two-year junior college to an accredited four-year college, as desired by church leadership in 1919, Augustana was required to attain at least one full-time professor in each of eight liberal arts departments: English, ancient languages, mathematics, philosophy, chemistry and physics, biological sciences, modern languages, and pedagogy. As a Lutheran college, there was also a department providing Christian instruction to all students.

Professor Sven A. Aas and his Lutheran Normal School botany class at Sherman Park in Sioux Falls, spring 1918.

When college-level modern foreign language courses were established for the new institution in 1919, the choices were French and Norwegian. Within the next couple of years, German and Spanish would be added. Pictured here is a page from Norsk Læsebok: Bind I For Barneskolen Og Hjemmet (Norwegian Reading Book: Volume 1 for Primary School and Home) by O. E. Rølvaag and P. J. Eikeland (Augsburg Publishing House, 1919). Norwegian courses are no longer regularly offered at Augustana. Though this may come as a surprise to many alumni, today’s students are equally surprised to learn they were available on campus, to varying degrees but almost uninterrupted, through 2004.

1919 Graduates

The 1918-19 college catalog boasts how easily Sioux Falls could be reached via railroad, listing typical lengths of travel from various central points in the Midwest. Riding the trains, students from Albert Lea, Minnesota, could reach Augustana in a mere – eight hours! Not surprisingly, the 242 students enrolled in 1918 all came from the Midwest, specifically South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and to a lesser extent, Nebraska, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Montana. Pictured here are members of the Class of 1919, who chose as their motto: “Launched; where shall we anchor?”

Augustana College Chapel

The pipe organ in the Old Main chapel, ca. 1920s-1935. All students were required to attend daily chapel services on campus (offered in the morning and evening) as well as public worship on Sundays. Students were also all expected to participate in the daily choral singing offered mid-morning. But they could not attend concerts, plays, or parties without permission and were forbidden from dancing, going to pool halls, gambling, playing cards, or drinking. Apparently, the use of tobacco products was more difficult to regulate, as they were banned only on school grounds. Students interested in extracurricular activities could choose between several literary and debating societies (Adelphic, Ciceronian, Shakesperian, and Boys) in 1918. They could also participate in student government through the Student’s Union, church-related activities through the Mission Society and Lutheran League, and in sports through the Athletic Association, though this was not yet organized enough for specific teams to be mentioned in the college handbook. In addition to Music Club, there was a band and two vocal ensembles: the Girl’s Glee Club and the Augustana Octette.

Schedule of the 1918-19 academic year. The late start date might be attributed to the chaos of consolidating the institutions a year ahead of schedule, with less than two months’ notice, when the Board of Directors in Canton refused to continue classes there after the Sioux Falls decision.

This document extolling the merits of Sioux Falls, “the friendly city,” isn’t a standalone promotional leaflet, but the back of the Augustana College letterhead, ca. 1926.

This image, taken around 1938, demonstrates how undeveloped the land around campus still was even 20 years after the move to Sioux Falls.

Today, the year 1918 features prominently on the Augustana Seal, designed by art professor Ogden Dalrymple around 1950. The other two years on the seal represent the founding of Augustana in Illinois (1860) and the founding of the Lutheran Normal School in Sioux Falls (1889).