St. Olaf College

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St. Olaf College
MottoFram! Fram! Kristmenn, Krossmenn
TypePrivate liberal arts college
Endowment$345.3 Million [2]
PresidentDavid R. Anderson '74, Ph.D.
Students3,007 undergraduates
LocationNorthfield, Minnesota, United States
44°27′34″N 93°10′50″W / 44.45944°N 93.18056°W / 44.45944; -93.18056Coordinates: 44°27′34″N 93°10′50″W / 44.45944°N 93.18056°W / 44.45944; -93.18056
Campus3.72 km2 (1.44 sq mi)
or 372 ha (920 acres)[1]
ColorsBlack and Old Gold          
Nickname"Oles" /ˈliz/ OH-lees
MascotSt. Olaf Lion
AffiliationsMIAC, ELCA
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St. Olaf College
MottoFram! Fram! Kristmenn, Krossmenn
TypePrivate liberal arts college
Endowment$345.3 Million [2]
PresidentDavid R. Anderson '74, Ph.D.
Students3,007 undergraduates
LocationNorthfield, Minnesota, United States
44°27′34″N 93°10′50″W / 44.45944°N 93.18056°W / 44.45944; -93.18056Coordinates: 44°27′34″N 93°10′50″W / 44.45944°N 93.18056°W / 44.45944; -93.18056
Campus3.72 km2 (1.44 sq mi)
or 372 ha (920 acres)[1]
ColorsBlack and Old Gold          
Nickname"Oles" /ˈliz/ OH-lees
MascotSt. Olaf Lion
AffiliationsMIAC, ELCA

St. Olaf College is a coeducational, residential, four-year, private liberal arts college in Northfield, Minnesota, United States. It was founded in 1874 by a group of Norwegian-American immigrant pastors and farmers, led by Pastor Bernt Julius Muus. The college is named after the King and the Patron Saint Olaf II of Norway.


Herman Amberg Preus, (1825–1894), a key figure in organizing the Norwegian Synod.

Seal and motto[edit]

The seal of the St. Olaf College displays the Coat of arms of Norway, which includes the axe of St. Olaf.

The motto Fram! Fram! Kristmenn, Krossmenn, written in New Norwegian, is adapted from the Old Norse battle cry of King Olaf. It means "Forward! Forward! Men of Christ, Men of the Cross".


Many Norwegian immigrants arrived in Rice County, Minnesota, and the surrounding area in the late 19th century. With nearly all the immigrants being Lutheran Christians, they desired a non-secular post-secondary institution in the Lutheran tradition that offered classes in all subjects in both Norwegian and English. The catalyst for founding St. Olaf was the Reverend Bernt Julius Muus, and he sought out the help of the Rev. N. A. Quammen and H. Thorson. Together they petitioned their parishes and others to raise money in order to buy a plot of land on which to build this new institution. The three men succeeded in receiving around $10,000 in pledges, and thus went on to form a corporation and to buy a plot of land and four buildings (old Northfield schoolhouses) for accommodations for the school.[2][3]

St. Olaf, then called St. Olaf's School, opened on January 8, 1875, at its first site under the leadership of its first president, Thorbjorn Mohn, a graduate of Luther College. Herman Amberg Preus, President of the Norwegian Synod, laid this foundation stone of the St. Olaf School on July 4, 1877. During 1887 the Manitou Messenger was founded as a campus magazine and has since evolved into the college's student newspaper.[4]


Old Main, St. Olaf College
Old Main
LocationSt. Olaf College campus, Northfield, Minnesota
Arealess than one acre
Architectural styleGothic
Governing bodyPrivate
NRHP Reference #76001073[5]
Added to NRHPJune 3, 1976
Steensland Library--St. Olaf College
Steensland Library
LocationOff St. Olaf Ave., Northfield, Minnesota
Arealess than one acre
ArchitectOmeyer & Thori
Architectural styleClassical Revival
Governing bodyPrivate
MPSRice County MRA
NRHP Reference #82003020[5]
Added to NRHPApril 6, 1982
The center of St. Olaf's campus.
St. Olaf's utility-grade wind turbine directly powers up to one-third of the campus.
Senior art show at Dittman Center, home of art galleries, classrooms, and studios.

Known as “The Hill”, St. Olaf College’s picturesque 300-acre (120 ha) campus is home to 17 academic and administrative buildings, 29 student residences and 10 athletic facilities. St. Olaf is a residential college; 96 percent of St. Olaf students reside in one of the 11 residence halls and 18 academic and special interest group houses. Adjacent to campus are 325 acres (132 ha) of restored wetlands, woodlands, and native tall grass prairie owned and maintained by St. Olaf, and a utility-grade wind turbine that supplies up to one-third of the college’s daily electrical needs.

Two buildings on the campus are listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Old Main, designed by Long and Haglin; and Steensland Library, designed by Omeyer and Thori.[6] In 2011, Travel+Leisure named St. Olaf as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States.[7]



Before graduating, St. Olaf students complete nearly 20 required courses in foundation studies (writing, a second language, oral communication, mathematical reasoning, physical well-being, as well as other courses) and core studies that include studies in Western culture, human behavior and society, biblical and theological studies, artistic and literary studies, and studies in natural science. Many of the courses are interdisciplinary. St. Olaf offers 39 major areas of study for the bachelor of arts degree, 4 for the bachelor of music degree and 19 areas of concentration.

The average student-to-faculty ratio is 12.8:1. The average class size is 22 students.

Study abroad[edit]

St. Olaf College is recognized nationally for the quality of its international studies programs and the Open Doors 2009 Report on International Educational Exchange ranks St. Olaf No. 1 nationally out of bachelor-degree institutions in the number of students who study abroad.[8] The college offers more than 120 international and U.S. off-campus study programs in Hong Kong, Japan, Costa Rica, Vietnam, the Czech Republic, London, Florence, Oxford, Aberdeen, Manhattan, Russia, and many other locations. Unique faculty-led study-abroad programs offered by the college include "Global Semester", "Term in the Middle East", and "Term in Asia" that take students to a variety of countries within each program.

Academic distinctions[edit]

According to a recent National Research Council’s "Survey of Earned Doctorates", St. Olaf ranked eighth among bachelor degree colleges in the number of graduates who go on to earn doctoral degrees.[9] St. Olaf was ranked second as an undergraduate supplier of Ph.D.'s in the area of religion and theology, fourth in education, fifth in life sciences and social service professions, sixth in arts and music, and seventh in chemistry.

St. Olaf College is regularly listed as one of the Colleges That Change Lives.[10] The school's U.S. News & World Report ranking in 2013 was 52 among national liberal arts colleges,[11] and in 2013 Forbes ranked St. Olaf 121 among all colleges and universities in the United States and 20 in the Midwest.[12]

Campus life[edit]

Student organizations[edit]

More than 250 registered student organizations are registered at St. Olaf, including academic, athletic, awareness, multicultural, political, religious, service (Alpha Phi Omega) and other special interest groups. Club sports include men's and women's Ultimate Frisbee, men’s and women’s rugby, men’s and women’s lacrosse, badminton, cycling, judo, fencing, and rowing. The Manitou Messenger is the student newspaper and KSTO 93.1 FM is the student-operated radio station. Other groups include an on-campus organic farm (STOGROW), an improv comedy troupe (Scared Scriptless), and an EMT (emergency medical technician) organization that is the first responder for campus emergencies.

A complete list can be found on this website:

Student government[edit]

St. Olaf’s Student Government Association (SGA) finances many student activities and organizations on campus. It operates through 10 branches, each of which is managed by an elected executive: Diversity Celebrations Committee, Volunteer Network, Music Entertainment Committee, Student Activities Committee, Student Organizations Committee, Board of Regents Student Committee, Student Alumni Association, The Pause, After Dark Committee and Political Awareness Committee. Besides these committees, students can serve on Student Senate to vote on issues such as constitutional bylaws changes and dorm capital improvement funds and communicate with college administrators about campus issues. SGA also maintains, a website containing information about student activities.[13]

Music program[edit]

St. Olaf's world-renowned[citation needed] music program was founded by F. Melius Christiansen in 1903. Its band, choir and orchestra tour the continental United States annually and have made many critically acclaimed international tours (that occur every three years).[14] The St. Olaf Band, currently under the direction of Timothy Mahr '78, was the first American college musical organization to conduct a concert tour abroad when it traveled to Norway in 1906. In March 1997, the St. Olaf Band toured California for nine days. They were one of four college or university bands invited to perform at the prestigious American Bandmasters Association National Convention in San Diego. Most recently, the band conducted a study tour of Japan in 2010.[15]

The St. Olaf Orchestra is conducted by Steven Amundson. Under Amundson’s direction, the Orchestra has performed demanding scores seldom attempted by amateur groups, including Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection),[16] Stravinsky’s Petrouchka and Rite of Spring, Ravel’s La valse, and tone poems by Richard Strauss. The orchestra has also premiered several new compositions in recent years. In the summer of 2012, the orchestra toured China, visiting some of the finest concert halls in Shanghai, Zhengzhou, Xi'an, and Beijing.

The St. Olaf Choir, conducted by Anton Armstrong ’78, was founded by Christiansen in 1907 as the St. John’s Lutheran Church Choir in Northfield. It is recognized as one of the premier collegiate ensembles in the United States.[17] It has toured Europe several times, as well as China, Korea, and Australia, performing before heads of state and producing more than a dozen recordings. The choir performs in the nationally broadcast annual St. Olaf Christmas Festival, along with the St. Olaf Orchestra and four of the college's other choirs. In 2005 the St. Olaf Choir was invited to perform at the White House for President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush and guests to commemorate The National Day of Prayer.

The St. Olaf Jazz I ensemble was recently awarded the prestigious Downbeat magazine award for top undergraduate large ensemble in 2011. This is particularly worthy of note as St. Olaf has no jazz studies department or jazz program.[18]

Other student musical ensembles include Chapel Choir, Cantorei, Manitou Singers, Viking Chorus, Collegiate Chorale, Philharmonia, Norseman Band and many smaller vocal and instrumental ensembles. There are also four student-run music ensembles at St. Olaf: Valhalla Band, Naknefeler Orchestra, and the men's and women's a cappella groups: The Limestones, Agnes, and "Krossmen" respectively. These groups are not a part of the college's music program and operate independently.

In 2005 the St. Olaf Band, St. Olaf Orchestra, and St. Olaf Choir toured throughout Norway to celebrate its centennial of independence from Sweden.

A few ensembles that sprouted their roots at St. Olaf include the Minnesota Symphonic Winds and the a cappella choral groups Cantus, Inpulse and Magnum Chorum.


St. Olaf College is a member of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) in NCAA Division III. St. Olaf athletic teams are nicknamed the "Oles". St. Olaf's Swimming and Diving team is one of its strongest of its sports teams, having won a majority of its MIAC conference championships, and is strongly competitive at the national level, often finishing within the top ten NCAA Division III schools at nationals. Along with them, the St. Olaf Ski Teams carry a tradition of winning all divisional and regional races. They consistently qualify for the USCSA Division III National Championships and have been constant competitors for the top three team podium spots for the nation. In the past the ski team has brought home national wins and consistently brings home the national Nordic/alpine combined victory called The President's Cup. The St. Olaf Men's Alpine team is currently ranked 2nd in the United States for DIII and the Women's Alpine team is currently ranked 4th for DIII. St. Olaf competes in the following sports:

Fall Sports:

Winter Sports:

Spring Sports:

St. Olaf also has many student-coached club and intramural teams that compete within the student body and also inter-college. Notable are the St. Olaf Ultimate teams, The Berzerkers and Durga, which make an annual trip to a national collegiate tournament (Spring Ultimax) in North Carolina. This year Durga played at the Division III Nationals tournament in Buffalo, New York, finishing at 7th place. Also notable is the St. Olaf Dance Team, which supports St. Olaf athletic teams (Football, Men’s/Women’s Soccer and Basketball) with half-time performances and also competes in intercollegiate events every year. They have previously performed in the Minnesota Swarm lacrosse team’s half-time show and taken home third place in their division at the 2011 St. Thomas Invitational.

Rivalry with Carleton College[edit]

Football at St. Olaf in 2009.

St. Olaf is a traditional athletic rival of its crosstown neighbor Carleton College. The annual American football game between Carleton and St. Olaf was recently dubbed the "Cereal Bowl" in honor of the Malt-O-Meal production facility that is located in Northfield. In this contest, the Oles had a winning streak 1995–2007 before losing 21–7 in 2008. The annual winner receives the "Goat Trophy", which created by a St. Olaf carpenter in 1931, as well as the silver Cereal Bowl trophy.

The rivalry between St. Olaf and Carleton, which began with a Carleton victory over St. Olaf in 1919, is one of the oldest in all of college football, and the only to feature two colleges from the same ZIP code.[citation needed] A statue of an eagle in Northfield's Civil War Veterans' Memorial (located in Bridge Square) is turned to face the college that wins the annual football match between the two schools.

These football teams are also significant for constituting the only NCAA-sanctioned metric football game in history, which St. Olaf won.

Fight song[edit]

Based on a Norwegian folk tune, the college song, "Um Yah Yah", is the only college fight song in the United States to be in 3/4 (waltz) meter. It is also one of the few college songs to mention another college in its lyrics. Other fight songs that mention rival schools include those of Texas A&M University, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Alabama, the University of Texas, Georgetown University, Williams College, Georgia Institute of Technology, the United States Naval Academy, and Boston University (in the "unofficial" lyrics to the fight song).

The lyrics to the St. Olaf song include the unofficial St. Olaf "battle cry" — "Um Yah Yah!". The most common version uses the name of traditional cross-town rival, Carleton College, but the current opposing institution's name is inserted when sung at athletic competitions.

We come from St. Olaf, we sure are the real stuff.
Our team is the cream of the colleges great.
We fight fast and furious, our team is injurious.
Tonight Carleton College will sure meet its fate.

Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah YAH!

Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah YAH!


St. Olaf has had 11 presidents since its founding:

Church affiliation[edit]

Kierkegaard Library[edit]

Inside the campus, the Howard V. and Edna H. Hong Kierkegaard Library was established with funds from St. Olaf College and Kierkegaard scholars Howard and Edna Hong. As curator, Howard Hong acquired books actually owned by Kierkegaard, books that are the same edition of those owned by him, Kierkegaard's complete works in many languages, and secondary bibliography about Kierkegaard. Subsequent curators of the library have also been renowned scholars; they include theologian Stephen C. Evans and philosopher Gordon Marino. Each year there is a summer fellowship program where St. Olaf College provides housing in campus dormitories or student honor houses; the Library provides a small stipend to cover living expenditures. Activities in the summer include Danish courses and a symposium every other year. There are also year-long Kierkegaard Fellowships, and these Kierkegaard scholars live in the Kierkegaard House.

Notable alumni[edit]

Notable St. Olaf alumni include Minnesota Gov. Al Quie '50, Oscar-winning screenwriter Barry Morrow '70, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gretchen Morgenson '76, and writers Ole Rolvaag 1905, Siri Hustvedt '77, and Traci Lambrecht '89 (of P.J. Tracy).

In popular culture[edit]

St. Olaf is mentioned in the works of Minnesota author F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose character Jay Gatsby of The Great Gatsby attended the college briefly and worked as a janitor. The college is also frequently mentioned in Garrison Keillor's radio program A Prairie Home Companion, which broadcast its show from St. Olaf on November 17, 2001, and November 19, 2011.

The fictional Minnesota city of St. Olaf was the hometown of Rose Nylund in the TV show The Golden Girls. In the TV show the fictional city's sister city was St. Gustav, Minnesota, a nod to Gustavus Adolphus College, located in nearby St. Peter, Minnesota. Betty White, the actress who played Rose, visited the St. Olaf campus on one occasion and was given an honorary membership in St. Olaf's chapter of the theater honorary society.

The St. Olaf Choir can be heard performing Mozart's Requiem with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in Nike's "Jordan XXII-Takeover" commercial. The St. Olaf Choir was also heard on the soundtrack of the 1972 film The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid.[20]

In October 2008 the Coen Brothers shot scenes at St. Olaf for their film A Serious Man.[21][22] After a long search of many campuses, the Coen brothers chose St. Olaf's old Science Center because it had the late 1960s look of the movie. St. Olaf has built a new science center and has remodeled the old building.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "St. Olaf College | Northfield, Minnesota, USA". Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  2. ^ "Th.N. Mohn, First President of St. Olaf College". St. Olaf College. Retrieved 2013-06-02. 
  3. ^ "Dear Old Hill". St. Olaf College. Retrieved 2013-06-02. 
  4. ^ David T. Nelson, Luther College, 1861–1961 Decorah, Iowa: Luther College Press, 1961.
  5. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  6. ^ "Steensland Hall: A century of service". St. Olaf College. 2008. 
  7. ^ "America's most beautiful college campuses", Travel+Leisure (September 2011)
  8. ^ "Iienetwork.Org". Retrieved 2013-07-16. [dead link]
  9. ^ "Baccalaureate Origins of Ph.D.s". St. Olaf College. Retrieved 2012-06-03. 
  10. ^ "St. Olaf College". Colleges that Change Lives. Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  11. ^ "St. Olaf College". US News and World Report. Retrieved 2013-12-28. 
  12. ^ "St. Olaf College". Retrieved 2013-12-28. 
  13. ^ "Oleville". Oleville. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  14. ^ "The St. Olaf Choir: A Narrative". St. Olaf College. Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  15. ^ Haywood, Daniel (2010-03-22). "VIDEO NEWS: St. Olaf Band performs, studies in Japan". Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  16. ^ "St. Olaf College — Spring Concert". 2012-04-01. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  17. ^ [1][dead link]
  18. ^ "St. Olaf jazz band recognized by Downbeat magazine | Minnesota Public Radio News". 2011-04-29. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  19. ^ "History of St. Olaf College". Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  20. ^ The St. Olaf's College Choir
  21. ^ Henke, David (2008-08-19). "Coen brothers will use St. Olaf for movie". Northfield News. 
  22. ^ Gonnerman, David (2008-10-09). "St. Olaf gets 'Serious'". St. Olaf College News. 

External links[edit]