I visited the deserted Dana campus in May 2012, driving around in a cold, drizzling rain. Without guidance, I photographed the most impressive building I saw, and this indeed turned out to be the Durham Center. The next morning I dropped by the Danish-American Archive and Library to look at college yearbooks, and ended up being invited to the staff coffee break. With eight of them—most former Dana officials—to one of me, it felt as if I were in doctoral comps all over again. Naturally, they were more than helpful with their knowledge and materials.
Trinity Seminary was opened in 1884 by the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Association in the home of Reverend E. C. Anderson. Its purpose was to train young men for the ministry. In 1899 Elk Horn College, a Danish folk high school from Iowa was merged with Trinity. The co-educational Dana College and Trinity Seminary now offered seminary, pre-seminary, academy, normal, commercial, conservatory, and college departments. It was not until the 1910’s that Dana began to award Associate’s degrees and not until the 1930’s that the school was accredited to award Bachelor’s degrees. The 1926 Danian shows five graduates from the seminary, one from pre-seminary, eight from the academy, seven each from the normal and commercial programs, four from the conservatory, and two receiving A.B. degrees.
The oldest student group on campus was the Student Christian Association. Three literary societies followed—Hesperian, Dannebrog, and Nordisk Læsekreds. Having a conservatory, Dana was strong in music with an orchestra and ladies’ glee club. But the showcase student group at Dana College was the a capella choir. This group went on an annual spring tour of Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska. The 1925 group gave 23 concerts in a two-week period.
In 1956 Trinity Seminary merged with Wartburg Seminary at Dubuque, IA.
In the 21st century Dana College began to experience financial problems. In July of 2010, after trying to sell to a group wishing to convert the school to a for-profit college with a significant on-line presence, Dana closed its doors. At the time of closure, the school had around 550 students and a 128 acre campus with 15 building units.
Bricks and Mortar
The first campus building, called Old Main, dates from 1886, with wings added in 1893 and 1904. An electrical fire in 1988 completely destroyed the building. It was replaced by The Durham Center and Trinity Chapel in 1993. Older campus structures remaining include two dormitories Argo (women) and Elk Horn (men) which date from the 1920’s, and the Pioneer Memorial—originally a library/administration building—which opened in 1948. The remaining college buildings date from 1960 or later.
The Margre Henningsford Durham Center and Trinity Chapel in 2012
Team name: Vikings
Colors: Red and White
Dana College played football annually from 1926 through 2006, with limited success. 58 of 82 teams had losing records, eight of these going winless. The highlight of the school’s football history was 1987, when the team went 8-2, making the NAIA Division II football playoffs. The Vikings lost 37-35 to Baker College in the first round. In 1969 Dana became a charter member of the Nebraska Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, now known as the Great Plains Athletic Conference.
The 1958 Dana Vikings went 0-8 for the season, losing to Tarkio (MO) and Nebraska rivals Peru State, Nebraska Wesleyan, Concordia, Chadron State, Doane, Kearney State, and Hastings.
Even before Title IX, Dana fielded a women’s basketball team that competed in the Midwest A.A.U. Conference. The 1960 team compiled an 11-3 record in the conference and competed in the National tournament. (Danian, Courtesy of Danish-American Archive and Library).