Background & History


Since the days of Eric Norelius, who founded both the nation’s largest social service agency and Gustavus Adolphus College, the College has pursued a mission grounded in leadership and service. Norelius, a Lutheran pastor who set out to found a college, not an orphanage, noticed a need to care for children. Seeing this need, he developed a plan, applied his heart, and acted with courage and conviction.

Norelius’s capacity to look beyond himself and focus on the needs of others—whether they were immigrant college students or orphaned children—is a significant contribution to Gustavus’s 150-year history, tradition and ethos. Norelius’s legacy of leadership, service, and commitment to the common good were tangible examples of wellbeing—to choose authentic self-expression and purposeful action which in turn adds value and serves the needs of the communities in which one lives and works.

Gustavus Adolphus College has embraced the critical task of promoting the purposeful development of wellbeing. This approach calls young adults to live with courage, vision, compassion, and integrity.

While difficult to define, people who embody wellbeing are evident when you see them. Healthy, authentic, and purposeful people are difference makers because they are optimistic and positive about themselves and their future. They live life as a calling, developing deep engagement in the social fabric of the communities, nation, and world. This is our calling, this is our legacy at Gustavus. While we cannot take credit for it, we have an obligation to be good stewards of this legacy to ensure that it will endure and flourish well into the future.