Luther College receives $10 million gift from Michael and Nicole Gerdin for athletics and wellness center renovations

An artist’s rendering of the entrance to the Gerdin Fieldhouse for Athletics and Wellness.

DECORAH, IOWA – Luther College announced today the commitment of a historic $10 million gift from Michael and Nicole Gerdin and the Gerdin Charitable Foundation. This is the largest individual gift in the college’s 162-year history, which will serve as the lead gift toward the expansion and renovation of the Regents Center, home to Norse athletics and the center for sports and recreation at Luther College.

“Today it’s my absolute joy and distinct privilege to announce this transformational gift to Luther College,” President Jenifer K. Ward said. “This support is not only historic, it speaks to the strength of Luther’s reputation as a fine Iowa college destination and to our potential for future success.”

The Chairman, President and CEO of Heartland Express in North Liberty, Iowa, Gerdin is a 1992 graduate of Luther who studied management and was a member of the Norse men’s basketball team. Starting his career as a teenager at the company his father founded, Gerdin moved up the ranks at Heartland to lead the firm, mirroring Heartland’s rise into one of North America’s largest truckload transportation and logistics companies.

From left to right: Luther College President Jenifer K. Ward, Mike Gerdin, former Luther College Basketball Coach Jeff Olinger, Athletic Director Renae Hartl and Luther Vice President for Development Mary Duvall.

“I wanted to play college basketball, and I wanted to go to a place that had a good business school. I kept coming back to Luther,” Gerdin said when describing his college decision process in the announcement Monday morning. “I talked to President Ward about what this upgrade could mean for Luther and the whole Decorah community. It is time for Luther.”

In recognition of this commitment, the facility will be renamed the Gerdin Fieldhouse for Athletics and Wellness.

“We want this project to embody that spirit of bringing all of campus together,” Ward said. “While the Regents Center is home to many Norse athletic teams as a training and competition venue, it is also heavily utilized by students, faculty, staff, and community members for recreation and wellness. This investment by the Gerdins and the Gerdin Charitable Foundation not only touches Luther, but contributes to the vitality of Decorah and all of northeast Iowa.”

“This is so incredibly exciting for all of us, and we are beyond grateful to Mike and his family for believing in us and this special place,” Athletic Director Renae Hartl said. “Here at Luther, students are at the heart of all we do, and these gifts are really about them. Our campus becomes their home for four years, and we work hard to provide an environment where we exercise our minds in classes and labs and we stress and push and exercise our bodies as part of overall wellness and a strong tradition of NCAA Division III athletics.”

The Luther campus and Decorah community came to the donation announcement Monday morning.

Aside from serving as the headquarters for the Luther Norse athletic department, the center also houses facilities used by the entire college, including the campus’ student, faculty and staff fitness facility, the college’s aquatics center, and the recently renovated indoor track, tennis courts, and flexible usage space of the Robert and Ann Naslund Sports and Recreation Center. Among the highlights in the preliminary plans for the Gerdin Fieldhouse are a new entrance space for the public, a team meeting space open for use by all teams, renovation of the locker rooms, and a new common area and study space for the 21 Norse athletic teams.

Originally constructed in 1963, the current Regents Center is over 200,000 square feet, and will become one of the largest renovation projects in the college’s history.

The Gerdin gift comes just weeks after the announcement of another significant individual gift with $2 million from Dennis and Suzanne Birkestrand to renovate and rename the court inside the Regents Center to the Birkestrand Family Court. Watch the announcement on Luther’s YouTube channel.

“These gifts of support from our alumni show remarkable confidence in the future of Luther College,” Ward said. “The recent investments in Luther by our graduates are symbolic of their journeys, and they call us toward our future. Mike and Dennis came to Luther in different generations, but they both received a broad-based education that grounded them in the ability to adapt and succeed. They share the same common thread of hard work up through the ranks, building their companies and careers, and now giving back so the next generation can benefit from that same Luther experience.”

About Luther College

At Luther College in beautiful Decorah, Iowa, students explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at

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Memorial Installed Honoring Two Decorah FFA Students

Decorah High School honors the enduring legacy of two exceptional students with the installation of a memorial table and benches on the high school campus near the greenhouse. This will serve as a lasting tribute to the lives of Dalton Hemesath and Karter Einck who made valuable contributions to the school community, particularly through their involvement in FFA.

Einck and Hemesath were not only strong academic talents but also examples of leadership and dedication. Their passion for agriculture and commitment to the FFA program left an indelible impact on their peers, teachers, and the community. FFA advisor Joni Bruvold remarked, “This memorial represents their welcoming personalities, especially their ability to bring people together.”

Although the majority of the funding for this project came from the Decorah FFA chapter, the chapter extends its gratitude to community members and other FFA chapters who also made contributions to celebrate the lives of these two remarkable individuals. 

FFA Memorial Photo All

Family members, current FFA officers, and FFA advisor gather to honor the memory of Dalton Hemesath and Karter Einck with the installation of table and benches.

ALL: Row 1 (l-r): Matt Hemesath, Braden Hemesath, Karlie Einck

Row 2 (l-r): Joni Bruvold, Anders Lovstuen, Annika Brynsaas, Derek Tieskoetter, Michelle Einck, Mary Hemesath

Row 3 (l-r): Keagen Einck, Travis Nordheim, Creed Monroe, Brody Courtney, Jeramiah Rediske, Ryan Einck

FFA Memorial Photo Families

FAMILIES (l-r): Mary Hemesath, Michelle Einck, Braden Hemesath, Keagen Einck, Karlie Einck, Matt Hemesath, Ryan Einck

FFA Memorial Photo Families and Officers

FAMILIES AND OFFICERS: Sitting (l-r): Jeramiah Rediske, Creed Monroe, Annika Brynsaas, Anders Lovstuen

Back (l-r): Derek Tieskoetter, Brody Courtney, Mary Hemesath, Michelle Einck, Braden Hemesath, Keagen Einck, Karlie Einck, Matt Hemesath, Joni Bruvold, Ryan Einck, Travis Nordheim

FFA Memorial Officers

OFFICERS (l-r): Jeramiah Rediske, Creed Monroe, Annika Brynsaas, Derek Tieskoetter, Brody Courtney, Travis Nordheim, Anders Lovstuen

Kruse Receives American FFA Degree

The National FFA Organization honors FFA members who show the utmost dedication to the organization through their desire to develop their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. The American FFA Degree is bestowed upon a select group of students in recognition of their years of academic and professional excellence.  Each year less than one percent of the FFA membership receives the American FFA Degree.

Melia Kruse was awarded the American FFA Degree at the 96th National FFA Convention & Expo on November 4. Kruse has been an active member of the Decorah FFA and met the requirements for the highest degree through the FFA. Each recipient of the American FFA Degree will receive a gold American FFA Degree key and certificate.

To be eligible, FFA members must have earned and productively invested $10,000 through a supervised agricultural experience program in which they start, own, or hold a professional position in an existing agricultural enterprise or earned and productively invested $2,000 and worked 2,250 hours in excess of scheduled class time. Recipients must also complete 50 hours community service, demonstrate outstanding leadership abilities and civic involvement, and have a good academic record.

Kruse is the 22nd member of the Decorah FFA who has earned this degree. Other Decorah FFA members who have earned this degree include Aaron Lovstuen, 1996-97; Sam Murray, 1997-98; Jacob Groth, 2000-01; Jeremy Peake, 2000-01; Ryan Holthaus, 2001-02; Kayla Hotvedt, 2003-04; Aric Yaw, 2003-04; Justin Holthaus, 2005-06; Mitch Hemesath, 2006-07; Gabriel Twedt, 2009-10; Dalton Frana, 2011-12; Danielle Fulsaas, 2012-13; Dustin Bigler, 2013-14; Andrew Luzum, 2013-14; Jordan Tietz, 2013-14; Aric Luzum, 2016; Isaac Luzum, 2016; Daiton Tietz, 2017; Hailey Nierling, 2019; Ashley Schwartzhoff, 2019; and Blake Courtney, 2020.

11.4.23 American FFA Degree Melia Kruse Decorah FFA

Melia Kruse of the Decorah FFA received her American FFA Degree at the 96th National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

Decorah FFA Travels to National FFA Convention

By: Jeremiah Rediske, Decorah FFA Reporter

Sixteen members of the Decorah FFA departed to Indianapolis, Indiana, for the 96th National FFA Convention & Expo. Members enjoyed three days filled with leadership sessions and FFA business, all while learning lifelong skills and meeting fellow members from all over the nation. Outside of convention, members had the opportunity to tour local attractions, including the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, Churchill Downs, Bayer Crop Science – Windfall Soybean Production Site, and Jake Wolf Memorial Fish Hatchery.

Members who attended convention include Rylee Averhoff, Annika Brynsaas, Karlee Bullerman, Brinlee Courtney, Brody Courtney, Kiele Eberling, Karlie Einck, Lauren Holthaus, William Kruse, Rashell Lippe, Lyla Lovstuen, Mara Lovstuen, Gabe Monroe, Eden Scheidel, Elora Schnitzler, and Derek Tieskoetter.

11.1.2023 National FFA Convention Decorah FFA Members

Front row (l-r): Lyla Lovstuen, Brinlee Courtney, Elora Schnitzler, Eden Scheidel, Kiele Eberling, Rashell Lippe, Lauren Holthaus, Karlee Bullerman

Second row (l-r): William Kruse, Brody Courtney, Annika Brynsaas, Derek Tieskoetter, Rylee Averhoff, Karlie Einck, Mara Lovstuen, Gabe Monroe

Fifteen DHS Students Selected to All-State Music Ensembles

On Saturday, October 21 at Independence High School, 50 Decorah High School musicians participated in the Iowa All-State Music auditions. The students prepared difficult musical selections and then competed for spots in the All-State ensembles with students from East Central and Northeast Iowa, including Dubuque and Cedar Rapids area schools.

Fifteen Decorah students were selected as members of the 2023 ensembles: Lucas Arendt, viola; Aitor Cuevas, trumpet; Connor Evelsizer, tenor voice; Gabriel Hiner, bass voice; Liam Huang, violin; Andy Kruger, tenor voice; Naomi Kutz, violin; Simon Kutz, cello; Alex McGohan, percussion; Lauren Severtson, violin; Ezra Vorvick, string bass; and Grant Zilka, baritone saxophone (alternate)

The concert will be broadcast on Iowa PBS on Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 23 at 7:00 p.m. 

DHS All State 2023

Front Row (l-r): Liam Huang, Violin; Grant Zilka, Baritone Saxophone Alternate; Andy Kruger, Tenor Voice; Luke Arendt, Viola; Lauren Severtson, Violin; Naomi Kutz, Violin 

Back Row (l-r): Simon Kutz, Cello; Alex McGohan, Percussion; Connor Evelsizer, Tenor Voice; Gabe Hiner, Bass Voice; Aitor Cuevas, Trumpet; Ezra Vorvick, String Bass

Decorah Elementary Students Treated to Children’s Author Visit and Free Book

Derek Anderson, author and illustrator of over 30 books for children, recently visited Decorah elementary students in Transitional Kindergarten through 4th grade. Some of Anderson’s works include the Croc and Ally series, Benny McGee and the Shark series, Gladys Goes Out to Lunch, and Story County. He is also the illustrator for the Little Quack series and the Hot Rod Hamster series. He grew up in Ames, Iowa, and now lives in Minneapolis. The Decorah FEC (Family, Educator, and Community Organization) generously funded this visit.

The students enjoyed the amazing opportunity to hear from Anderson about his work as an author and illustrator. In his two presentations, he shared with them the process of creating, that it’s okay to make mistakes, and to never give up. He also demonstrated how he draws his character Ally.

To help get the students excited about Anderson’s visit, the Oneota Valley Literacy Foundation generously donated 310 of his books, allowing each student in Transitional Kindergarten through 2nd grade to receive one of his books. 

Teacher Librarian Michaela Seeman remarked, “Decorah elementary students are incredibly fortunate to have such a supportive community to provide these unique opportunities.”

Mrs. Delaneys 2nd grade class

Mrs. Delaney’s second graders show off their new books.

D Anderson speaks

Derek Anderson speaks to Decorah elementary students.

Derek Anderson Draws

Derek Anderson draws a book character.

Historical Society Helps Keep History of Area Schools Alive at Decorah High School

Walking around the commons area at Decorah High School now offers a history lesson of schools from the surrounding area. From Bluffton to Burr Oak and Nordness to North Winneshiek, thirteen regions are honored with photo collages displayed on the pillars of the DHS cafeteria and gym entrance.

Adam Riley, Associate Principal and Activities Director, wanted a way to pay tribute to the schools in our area. He knew contacting Elizabeth Lorentzen, currently on the board of directors at the Winneshiek County Historical Society and formerly a Decorah art teacher for 42 years, would be just the person to help him with this project. “We can’t thank Elizabeth and others from the Historical Society enough for the work that was put in to help this vision become a reality. Our commons area is a place where people from all over our school district come to gather, and we hope these photo boards can continue to help our students stay connected and have pride in the areas that their families come from,” Riley said.

Lorentzen does research for the Historical Society, teaches the public about the architecture of Decorah, and writes for the society’s newspaper. For this project she spent twenty-five hours researching each area and finding photos to represent them. “I really liked Adam’s idea,” Lorentzen remarked.

According to Lorentzen, there used to be community bands, baseball teams (from the 1890s to the 20s and 30s), and other events that drew people together. Gathering authentic photos helps with the identification of each of those places. She also shared that during the 1850s Winneshiek County had 225 country schools until a 1960s law forced consolidation of the schools. Locust School was in use the longest in the state of Iowa.

Elizabeth Lorentzen knows well the history of the area schools and was invested in the project because it was for the high school. “The photos are important because those areas still have a very personal feel for those residents,” commented Lorentzen. “They are proud of where they come from.”

IMG 1632 1

Elizabeth Lorentzen by one of the photo collages

IMG 1636

A close up of a section of the Highlandville collage

West Side 1

West Side and John Cline Students Participate in Pumpkin Literacy Project

West Side Early Childhood Center and John Cline Elementary School recently hosted the Pumpkin Literacy Project.  Through generous funding from the Decorah Public Library and the Decorah FEC (Family, Educator, and Community Organization), they were able to create a school pumpkin patch. 

Students picked a pumpkin from the patch, read a favorite book, and then decorated their pumpkin to represent the book. Over 160 families chose to participate in this event.

Red cape

Decorah Schools Host Family STEAM Night

The Decorah elementary schools and early childhood center recently hosted a Family STEAM Night.  Over 300 participants enjoyed STEAM-based activities, including coding, physics demonstrations, dance, math activities, art projects, STEAM challenges, robots, special snacks, a construction zone, and special guest visitors which included baby tortoises and giant hissing cockroaches.

Many organizations came together to make this event a success, including Keystone AEA, Crave Dance Studio, the Luther College Physics Department, 4H, Winneshiek County Conservation, Decorah Bank and Trust, and Wartburg College.

3 D Cards

Students enjoyed making clay creations and 3-D cards.


Students practiced their coding skills.

STEAM critters

Lots of awesome critters were in attendance, including lizards, baby tortoises and cockroaches.

Luther Physics

Representatives of the Luther Physics Department brought awesome hands on materials to explore.

Luther College raises $367,011 on One Team Day for Norse athletics

Dave Mitchell, head wrestling coach for Luther, speaks at the One Team Day celebration at T-Bock’s.

DECORAH, IOWA—During its fourth annual One Team Day, Luther College raised $367,011 from 1,189 donors for Norse athletics. This is the largest-ever One Team Day on record.

“We were absolutely blown away by the amount of support we received on One Team Day this year,” said Renae Hartl, director of intercollegiate athletics at Luther. “We are grateful to everyone who participated in One Team Day, and thankful for everyone who shows up to support Norse athletes throughout the year.”

Donors were able to support the specific teams of their choice. The funds raised on One Team Day provide critical operating support, such as advanced technologies for training and recovery, top-tier equipment and uniforms, and quality travel and training experiences.

During the day on Nov. 16, student-athletes from each sport reached out to alumni, family members and other supporters of Norse athletics through text messages. Lara Welter, a senior Norse softball player and mathematics major with a concentration in secondary education, had the chance to connect with alumni who played softball, in addition to her former coaches.

“It was a lot of fun reaching out to people and hearing their stories. I connected with people I hadn’t spoken with in so long, including my own former coaches from high school and childhood,” Welter said. “It’s really rewarding when something I did inspired them to support Norse athletics.”

At the end of the night, Luther alumni and members of the Decorah community gathered for the first ever One Team Day Celebration at T-Bock’s.

“Luther is Decorah’s college and Decorah is Luther’s town,” said Dave Mitchell, head wrestling coach for Luther. “They were made for each other.”

About Luther College 

At Luther College in beautiful Decorah, Iowa, students explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Luther’s academic programs, experiential approach to learning, and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at

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