Mission and History

Academic Catalog: 2016–2017

Gustavus Adolphus College is a church-related, residential liberal arts college firmly rooted in its Swedish and Lutheran heritage.

The College offers students of high aspiration and promise a liberal arts education of recognized excellence provided by faculty who embody the highest standards of teaching and scholarship. The Gustavus curriculum is designed to bring students to mastery of a particular area of study within a general framework that is both inter- disciplinary and international in perspective.

The College strives to balance educational tradition with innovation and to foster the development of values as an integral part of intellectual growth. It seeks to promote the open exchange of ideas and the independent pursuit of learning.

The College aspires to be a community of persons from diverse backgrounds who respect and a rm the dignity of all people. It is a community where a mature understanding of the Christian faith and lives of service are nurtured, and students are encouraged to work toward a just and peaceful world.

The purpose of a Gustavus education is to help students attain their full potential as persons, to develop in them a capacity and passion for lifelong learning, and to prepare them for fulfilling lives of leadership and service in society.


Eric Norelius, an immigrant Swedish Lutheran pastor, founded the College in Red Wing, Minnesota, in 1862. It was moved to East Union the following year, where it was called the Minnesota Preparatory School. In 1865, when Swedish Lutherans were celebrating the 1,000th anniversary of the death of St. Ansgar, it was renamed St. Ansgar’s Academy. The school was moved to Saint Peter in 1876 and named Gustavus Adolphus College to honor the Swedish King Gustav II Adolf (1594–1632), who defended Protestantism during the Thirty Years War.

Originally a college of the Swedish Lutheran Church in Minnesota, Gustavus was founded in order to provide pastors and teachers for the Swedish immigrants settling in Minnesota. Until 1962, Gustavus was supported by the Minnesota Conference of the Augustana Lutheran Church, and then, from 1962 through 1987, by the Minnesota and Red River Valley Synods of the Lutheran Church in America.

Today Gustavus Adolphus College operates under the auspices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Gustavus Adolphus College Association of Congregations.

The Campus and the Community

The Gustavus campus overlooks Saint Peter and the beautiful Minnesota River valley from its position on the river’s west bank. Christ Chapel, with its soaring spire, is the focal point of the 330-acre campus. Arranged in an oval around the chapel are 29 other major buildings, including 13 residence halls, classroom and service buildings, recreational and athletic facilities, and eld laboratories. At least one specimen of every tree native to Minnesota can be found on the landscaped campus.

Saint Peter is a community of approximately 11,400 located approximately 70 miles south of the Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area (population 3.28 million) and twelve miles north of Mankato (population 40,600). Surrounded by rich farmland and wooded areas and bordered by the Minnesota River, Saint Peter is a historic city that has produced ve state governors—nine, if former Gustavus and St. Ansgar’s students are included. Rich in Native American and settler history, Saint Peter was the site of the 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux.

Programs such as the Saint Peter Learning Community, the Big Partners/Little Partners program, a tutoring program at the high school, and a volunteer network at the state hospital help bring the communities of the College and town together.


Thirty major buildings situated throughout 330 acres provide the instructional setting for Gustavus students. Notable among them are:

Christ Chapel

A striking place of worship in the center of the campus, Christ Chapel seats 1,200 people and houses a four-manual, 64-rank Hilgreen-Lane organ—the largest of the seven organs available at Gustavus.

Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library

Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library provides both print and electronic resources through a carefully chosen local collection and access to collections at other libraries. The library has more than 300,000 volumes, a Web-accessible library catalog, campus-wide access to many full-text periodicals and databases, and research assistance available seven days a week.

Classroom Buildings

The Warren and Donna Beck Academic Building (for communication studies, economics and management, history, psychological science, and sociology and anthropology), Ogden P. Confer and Edwin J. Vickner Language Halls, P.A. Mattson Hall (for education and nursing), the Alfred Nobel Hall of Science, Old Main, F.W. Olin Hall (for mathematics, computer science, and physics), and the Harold and Ruth Schaefer Fine Arts Center.

Lund Center for Physical Education and Health

Lund Center for Physical Education and Health features a 25-meter by 25-yard swimming pool with diving well, racquetball courts, gymnastics practice and performance areas, aerobic facilities, a sports forum highlighted by a 200-meter indoor track and six playing courts for basketball and volleyball, and an arena for ice hockey, ice skating, and indoor tennis. Rounding out Lund Center are facilities for athletic training, a human performance laboratory, a weight training room, coaches’ offices, and the intramural athletic headquarters.

C. Charles Jackson Campus Center

A tangible commitment to community, hospitality, interaction, and involvement, the Jackson Campus Center centralizes a number of student service programs and offices, including the offices of the Dean of Students, Residential Life, Campus Activities, and the Health Service, as well as the Diversity Center and the Wellness Center. The Campus Center also houses the “Gustavus Market Place” and the Evelyn Young Dining Room, a state-of-the-art dining service facility that comfortably and efficiently meets the needs of the entire campus community, and a more informal “Courtyard Café,” serving sandwiches, desserts, beverages, and other grab-and-go items. Also housed in the center are the Book Mark, Print and Mail Services, student organization offices, the O ce of Admission, and a variety of public and semi-public spaces that allow and encourage students, faculty, staff , and others to gather informally.

Computer Facilities

Gustavus students have free access to campus computing labs equipped with Windows, Macintosh, and Linux machines. In addition, Ethernet and access to the Internet are available in all student rooms.


Gustavus is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission to award the Bachelor of Arts degree. It is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Its programs are accredited by the American Chemical Society, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, the American Association of Health Education, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, the Commission on the Accreditation of Athletic Training Education, and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

The College is a member of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Council of Independent Colleges, and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and is on the approved list of the American Association of University Women.

Measuring the Quality

There are a number of ways to measure the quality of an institution: a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, low student-faculty ratio, high retention and graduation rates, strong graduate school and job placement rates, and more. By these measures, Gustavus demonstrates excellence. Additionally, the College continually assesses the effectiveness of its programs through departmental assessment of student learning outcomes, regular review of its general education programs, and involvement in research initiatives such as the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education, funded by the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts, and a value-added assessment project to measure writing, critical thinking, and civic engagement funded by the Teagle Foundation.

The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education has ranked Gustavus among the top colleges in the country in the percentage of alumni who contribute to the school. This is strong evidence of the degree of satisfaction that Gustavus graduates have with their educational experience.