The roots of Dana College are in Trinity Seminary and the United Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church. In 1884 Danish Lutheran pioneers established Trinity Seminary at Blair, Nebraska, for the purpose of training men for the parish ministry. Rev. A.M. Andersen, founder of the institution, began teaching seminary courses in his home. Two years later, the first permanent building on the campus was completed. The main emphasis during those early days was on theology and, although some academic courses were offered, they were taught primarily as a background for theological study.
The need for additional academic courses was recognized not fulfilled until 1899 when the Danish College at Elk Horn, Iowa, was merged with the Blair school. The result was the establishment of Dana College as a separate educational institution.
Dana and Trinity operated as a twofold institution of the UDELC which was renamed the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1944, and shared the same campus in Blair until 1956. As plans for the merger of the UELC, the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the American Lutheran Church became more definite, it was decided to move Trinity to the campus of Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa. Following the merger of these church bodies in 1961, Dana assumed her place as one of the 11 senior colleges of the new American Lutheran Church.
In 1987, the American Lutheran Church joined the Lutheran Church in America and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches to create the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Dana continued to recognize its Danish heritage over the years through various events and honors. Several influential Dana alumni and employees were named Knight of the Order of Dannebrog, including C.C. Madsen T‘34, Norman C. Bansen ‘47, Earl Mezoff, and Myrvin C. Christopherson ’61. The Dana Folk Dancers were founded in 1957 and the group continued to dance on campus and around the area well into the 1980s. The gas (converted to electric) lamps that graced the Korshoj Terrace were given to Dana College by the city of Copenhagen in 1959 for the college’s 75th anniversary.
Three visits by Danish royalty were highlights in Dana’s history. Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Ingrid (later King and Queen of Denmark) visited Dana in 1939. Queen Margrethe II and Prince Henrik visited the college in 1976 where the Queen spoke during commencement exercises. The final royal visit was by Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary at the Sustainable Enterprise Conference in 2009.
Sights & Sounds
The Sights & Sounds of Christmas began as little more than a band and choir concert in 1973, but rapidly grew into a tradition that attracted visitors from throughout the region. A highlight of the holiday event was the Scandinavian smorgasbord.
The Liberal Arts Reading Program (LARP) was piloted in the 1956-57 academic year as a way to stimulate intellectual growth within the Dana community. Students were divided into small groups consisting of all grade levels and were led in discussion by a different faculty member each week. The number of semesters of LARP required for graduation changed through the years, but LARP remained a part of the curriculum until 2009.
The Humanities program also shaped the education of all who attended Dana College for decades. Under the leadership of Clifford Hanson, “Hum” became a part of the general education curriculum in 1965. Humanities was team taught by faculty from the areas of art, history, literature, music, philosophy, and religion. Again requirements varied over the years, but the program continued for nearly three decades until being discontinued in 1994.
Trinity Seminary was served by six Presidents. A. M. Andersen (1884–1889) was the founding President of the seminary. The two men who followed him were intimately involved in both the formation of the school and of the United Church. G. B. Christiansen served the school from 1890-1896. P.S. Vig led the school on and off for the next thirty years (1896–1899, 1902–1905, 1909–1914, 1919–1925). Other Presidents of the seminary included S. C. Eriksen (1908–1909), J. P. Nielsen, and T. I. Jensen.
Five men were appointed by the United Church to serve as Presidents of both the Dana College and Trinity Seminary. These were Kristian Anker (1899–1902), J. P. Jensen (1905–1908), L. A. Laursen (1914–1919), T. M. Hansen (1925–1929), Erland Nelson (1929–1931) and R. E. Morton (1946–1956).
The Presidents of Dana College were:
Kristian Anker (1902–1905)
C. X. Hansen (1908–1914, 1919–1925, 1936–1938)
Erland Nelson (1931–1936)
Lawrence Siersbeck (1938–1944)
R. E. Morton (1944–1956)
C. C. Madsen (1956–1971)
Earl R. Mezoff (1971–1978)
James G. Kallas (1978–1985)
Myrvin Christopherson (1986–2005)
Janet Philipp (2005–2010)