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ISSUE 120 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 10/6/2006

Anderson appreciates strong faith, ELCA connection

By Emelie Heltsley
News Editor

Friday, October 6, 2006

Most members of the St. Olaf community know the importance of the college's faith and its connection to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). St. Olaf's identity as a college of the church has not escaped the notice of President David R. Anderson '74, and he views the faith of the college community as vital to it’s mission.

Anderson describes himself as a "cradle Lutheran," a person born and raised in the Lutheran faith.

"My mother and father are faithful Lutherans, and our church played a central role in every aspect of our family life," Anderson said.

Anderson likened his faith while at St. Olaf to a journey.

"I was in a different place in my own journey when I was a student than I am now," he recalls, describing himself as "skeptical," "young," and even "arrogant."

During Anderson's college years, the faith of the St. Olaf community was a constant presence.

"The most important thing the faith of the college community did for me was simply always to be present in the form of regular worship, courses, conversation and the examples of students, faculty and staff," he said.

Anderson appreciates the attitude and dedication of students, and he sees this collective faith as important to student life.

"Because so many members of the community do share a deep faith, they approach their work and study at the college with a passion and commitment that empowers them and the college," he said. "As president, I hope to do what I can to support and nourish that faith."

St. Olaf sustains a strong connection with the ELCA, and Anderson sees both advantages and disadvantages to the connection.

"There are many excellent liberal arts colleges," he said.

"There are very, very few who combine nationally recognized academic excellence with the vast resources available to students at St. Olaf to nurture, nourish and grow in their faith."

According to Anderson, St. Olaf's unique position has become its niche, which he describes as "academic excellence and robust student life."

He addressed the way faith impacts many other aspects of student life.

“Our attentiveness to important questions, our attentiveness to one another and our attentiveness to this place are all supported by our faith,” he said.

The college's connection to the ELCA, though providing the college with a strategic advantage, may make St. Olaf seem exclusionary.

"It is important that we talk about our Lutheran identity and heritage in a way that communicates to folks unfamiliar with the college that even though they may not share our heritage or faith tradition, they are welcome here," he said.

Anderson also commented on last semester's discussions about the possibility of the St. Olaf Congregation becoming a "Reconciling in Christ" congregation.

"I believe that the student congregation is already a ‘Reconciling in Christ’ congregation,” Anderson said.

"Certainly, St. Olaf should be, and I believe is, a welcoming community for persons, regardless of their gender status, sexual orientation, race, class or other potentially divisive categories."

Anderson said that he is still learning how the “Reconciling in Christ” label would affect the campus and overall college community.

Anderson admitted that when he was growing up he never thought that he would eventually become the president of a college, much less a Lutheran college.

Now that he is here, however, he recognizes and appreciates the faith of the college.

"We graduate students who are not only intellectually well-trained, but also equipped with the habits of mind and heart that enable them to grapple with the ultimate questions, and to see their daily work in light of eternal questions," Anderson said. "It doesn't get any better than that."

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