I visited the remains of the Luther College campus in August 2013. Arriving in the shanks of the day, I tried to photograph the ruined East Hall in almost blinding sunlight. Walking around the campus, I saw where Old Main had been and saw three other buildings in poor condition. Internet Archive has the 1913 and 1921 bulletins from Luther College. The ultimate archive is the Swenson Swedish Imigration Research Center at Augustana College.
Luther Academy was organized by the Swedish Augustana Synod of the Lutheran Church. The stated purpose of the Academy was to “help young men and young women acquire a vision of the higher purpose of life and a desire to place their energies and talents in some big and definite form of service in the kingdom of God on earth.”
Classes began for five students on October 18, 1883. The first graduation was held in May 1886 with nine graduates. In the same year commercial courses were offered, the beginning of a business department. A separate music department began in 1893. Courses in needlework, wood carving (sloyd), and gymnastics were occasionally offered. The 1921-22 bulletin showed seven divisions—the academy, the normal school, the business school, the music school, the art school, the model school and the home economics course.
Student organizations included the Wartburg Society, the one literary society. There were three debating clubs—Junto-Vidsner and Roosevelt (for men) and Phalbonsec (for ladies). With a music school, Luther had four musical groups—College orchestra, Oratorio Society, Luthermen Chorus and Chaminade Ladies’ Chorus. Luther College athletics were under the management of the Athletic Association.
Luthermen Chorus (1921 bulletin<archive.org/stream/luthercollegead2122luth#page/n59/mode/2up>) accessed 1-30-2017
Luther experienced financial difficulties but was rescued by several Wahoo businessmen. However, by 1961 the Augustana Synod began moves to merge Luther with Midland College at Fremont. Although bitterly opposed by Wahoo residents, the merger was achieved. Luther’s final graduating class contained 41 Associate degree recipients and another eight diploma recipients.
Bricks and Mortar
The oldest building was a frame structure built in 1885. It was moved to its present location in 1903. Now brick, it housed female students and faculty and took the name East Hall. West Hall (1893) was renovated as the male dormitory and dining hall. Main Building (1903) housed classrooms, the library, the laboratory, the chapel and the business division. A gymnasium and rectory were added in 1916.
After the merger, the campus was taken by John F. Kennedy College, which occupied it until that college closed in 1975. During this time, Main Building burned.
Today the campus is derelict, with remaining buildings boarded up or in a state of disrepair.
East Hall in 2013. Note the broken windows.
Team name: Vikings
Luther College became a charter member of the Nebraska Junior College Conference along with Dana, Hebron and Concordia Teachers. Luther began football teams in 1929, playing home and home series with the other conference teams. When World War II cut into the male student population, Luther fielded a six-man team that played home and home games with Dana.
In the final seasons Luther’s schedule included a wider range of junior colleges—Scottsbluff, McCook, Norfolk, and Fairbury in Nebraska; Worthington in Minnesota, Waldorf in Iowa and Highland in Kansas.