Dana College

Coordinates: 41°33′01″N 96°09′22″W / 41.55028°N 96.15611°W / 41.55028; -96.15611
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Dana College
MottoVeritas Vincit
TypePrivate college
Location, ,
Red and white
Sporting affiliations
NAIAGPAC (until 2010)

Dana College was a private college in Blair, Nebraska. Its rural 150-acre (607,000 m2) campus is approximately 26 miles (40 km) northwest of Omaha and overlooks a portion of the Missouri River Valley. The campus was planned to be purchased by Midland University, which expressed its intention to re-open the campus in 2015 or 2016,[1] but dropped plans in early 2016.[2]

The name "Dana" is the poetic variant of "Denmark". The college was founded in 1884 by Danish pioneers.


The student body was taught by 45 professors and eight non-doctorate instructors, resulting in an average teacher-student ratio of 1:12.

The college offered on-campus housing in five residence halls and contractually maintained off-campus apartments for married or non-traditional students. Campus life fostered by an active student government and many student organizations. There were no fraternities and sororities.


The Danish Evangelical Lutheran Association in America (or Blair Church) was formed in 1884 by a group of Danish members who left the Conference of the Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Many Blair Church pastors were supportive of the Inner Mission.

The Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (or North Church) was formed in 1894 when seminary professor P. S. Vig, along with a number of pastors and congregations, left the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America over theological differences.

In 1896, two small groups of Danish Lutherans in America – known as the Blair Church and the North Church – came together to form the United Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church (commonly known as the United Church). This church body was a part of the Danish Lutheran "Inner Mission" movement, which supported a revival of religious practice based on the Bible and orthodox Lutheran teachings. Its members strongly opposed the liberalizing influence of Danish theologian N. F. S. Grundtvig, who had supported the realization of religious expression through sacramental and congregational practices.

Led by Peter Sørensen Vig and C. X. Hansen, one of the United Church's first priorities was to establish an educational system. Elk Horn Højskole in Elk Horn, Iowa, had been founded in 1878 as the first Danish folk school in America. In 1894, Pastor Kristian Anker, then owner and principal of the Elk Horn Højskole, sold it to the newly formed Danish Lutheran Church in North America for use as a seminary and college. When the North Church merged with the Blair Church in 1896, the seminary was consolidated with Trinity Seminary in Blair, Nebraska.[3]

When the Dana School was founded, part of its purpose was to be a pre-seminary school for those preparing for ministry in the Lutheran church. Many of Dana's early graduates went on to study at Trinity Seminary. For many years, Dana and Trinity shared faculty, administrators, staff, and presidents. This relationship ended in 1956 when Trinity Seminary merged with Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa.[4]

The Dana School was begun as preparatory school. By the early 1910s – in cooperation with the University of Nebraska – the Dana School was awarding associate degrees. In the 1930s Dana College became an accredited four-year school and began awarding bachelor's degrees.[5]


The institution faced significant, on-going financial challenges in the 2000s. Dana College reported that its deficit rose from $7,170,000 USD in 2005 to more than $12,550,000 USD in 2009. The Dana College Board of Regents attempted to convince major donors to make contributions to the college. Yet Dana College was unable to attract the donations to erase the deficit and fund on-going operations. This lack of financial support for the institution was because of two major problems: The global financial crisis which resulted in the Great Recession of 2008 meant that several prospective donors were unable and/or unwilling to contribute, as did a lack of a "big grand vision for what Dana could become", according to one Regent who served during that period.

In 2010, the Dana College Board of Regents made a decision to structure an agreement to sell Dana College to an investment group, Dana Education Corporation. The investment group proposed to transform Dana into a for-profit institution with a focus on "doubling enrollment, aggressively marketing the school and building Dana's study abroad program". However, this proposed change of control was not accepted by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

The sale of Dana College to the investment group collapsed. On June 30, 2010, the Dana College Board of Regents elected to cease operations, citing a multimillion-dollar deficit.[6]

On July 14, 2010, the Dana College Board of Regents wrote in a letter to alumni and supporters, "We are firm in our belief that politics, not substance and reason, drove the ultimate decision."[7] Attempts made by students, faculty, staff, alumni and other supporters of Dana College to influence the Higher Learning Commission to reverse its decision failed.

Students were offered the ability to transfer to the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Grand View University in Iowa through formal teach-out plans.

Midland University of Fremont, Nebraska, allowed all former Dana College students to transfer all Dana college credits, honored all Dana academic, athletic and need-based scholarships and grants, and waived enrollment deposits for Dana students. Of the roughly 600 Dana students, approximately 275 enrolled at Midland in the fall of 2010.[8]

In 2013, Midland University, experiencing increasing enrollment and considering expansion, leased the Dana campus with the option of purchasing it; the land was purchased instead by Frank Krejci, an Omaha developer, for $3.5 million, who then donated it to Ed Shada, an Omaha banker, to lead redevelopment of the campus. In 2016, Midland announced that it would not re-open the Dana campus, but would concentrate its expansion efforts in Fremont and Omaha. According to a Midland press release, high maintenance costs and "a complicated path to accreditation" dissuaded them from carrying through their plans for the Blair site.[9][10]

The land was to become the new home of Omaha's Grace University in 2018, after the school sold a large part of its campus to Omaha Public Schools. However, Grace too announced its folding at the end of the 2017–18 academic year, and the move to Blair did not occur.[11] In 2018, alumni and friends of Grace founded Charis University with the intent of occupying the Dana campus and becoming a spiritual successor to Grace.[12][13]

In 2018 Angels Share, a nonprofit organization, acquired the land. In cooperation in with The Metro Area Planning Agency and the City of Blair, portions of the campus have been sold off, while others have been redeveloped. The former residence halls have been converted into housing for young adults who have aged out of the foster care system.[14]


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 Kallas (1978–1985)
  • Myrvin Christopherson (1986–2005)
  • Janet Philipp (2005–2010)
1990s brick building with square pyramidal-topped steeple, clear glass windows
Trinity Chapel


The campus has 151 acres (61 ha) of space. It is about 26 miles (42 km) northwest of Omaha.[15]

Rasmussen Hall housed first and second year students. It was coed, with each wing or each floor housing a sex.[16] Holling Hall housed first and second year students.[17] Blair Hall housed upperclassmen, and first year students were not eligible to live there.[18] Previously Mickelsen Hall housed both men and women on different floors.[19] In the summer of 2007 Mickelsen was renovated so it housed upperclassmen women.[20] In the fall of 2006 the school opened the Suite-Style Apartments for third and fourth year students.[21]

The university maintained Omaha Village Apartments, for married and non-traditional students.[22] Omaha Village had one and two bedroom apartments.[23]

Dana College expected its students to live on campus for all of their years. Any students wishing to live off campus were required to gain approval.[24]

The campus was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2021.[25]

Notable alumni[edit]


The Dana athletic teams were called the Vikings. The college was a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) from 1969–70 to 2009–10.

Dana competed in 18 intercollegiate varsity sports: Men's sports included baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, track & field and wrestling; while women's sports included basketball, cheerleading, cross country, dance, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, track & field and volleyball.

Athletic director[edit]

Former pro wrestler Bill Danenhauer was the last athletic director.


In January 2009, it considered changing conference affiliations; however, outcry from alumni caused the school to rethink its position.[26]

Clubs and intramurals[edit]

The college also had a number of intramural and club sports programs below the varsity level, operating independently of the athletic department.


  1. ^ "Midland picks up the keys to former Dana campus". Archived from the original on January 29, 2015. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  2. ^ "Midland University drops plan to absorb Dana campus because of renovation costs | Education". omaha.com. March 21, 2016. Retrieved March 15, 2020.
  3. ^ Elk Horn Højskole Folk School (Dana College) Archived 2008-05-16 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Dana College". Archived from the original on May 28, 2011. Retrieved August 2, 2010.
  5. ^ "Mission & History - Dana College". Archived from the original on January 6, 2009. Retrieved December 29, 2009.
  6. ^ "A reflection on Dana College's demise | Local News | enterprisepub.com". Archived from the original on April 27, 2018. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  7. ^ "Suspended Lutheran College Calls for Probe of Accrediting Body". July 18, 2010. Archived from the original on September 11, 2017. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  8. ^ "Midland Lutheran to take in half of Dana students". Boston.com. July 7, 2010. Retrieved March 15, 2020.
  9. ^ "Midland University drops plans for vacant Dana College campus". Archived 2016-04-24 at the Wayback Machine KETV. Archived 2016-04-29 at the Wayback Machine March 19, 2016. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  10. ^ Granese, Don. "Blair hopeful former Dana College campus has a future". WOWT. Archived 2016-04-04 at the Wayback Machine March 18, 2016. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  11. ^ Hendee, David. "Grace University says it will halt operations at end of 2017-18 school year; financial, enrollment concerns blamed | Local". omaha.com. Retrieved March 15, 2020.
  12. ^ "Charis University plans to open this fall at Dana | Local News | enterprisepub.com". Archived from the original on April 22, 2018. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  13. ^ "New Christian college could bring Grace University students to Blair". April 15, 2018. Archived from the original on April 21, 2018. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  14. ^ "Blair molds idle Dana College assets into solutions for city's future". WOWT. May 1, 2019.
  15. ^ Cole, Kevin. "$5.9 million price for Dana campus." Omaha World-Herald. Monday May 2, 2011. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  16. ^ "Rasmussen Hall." Dana College. October 22, 2008. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  17. ^ "Holling Hall." Dana College. May 10, 2008. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  18. ^ "Blair Hall." Dana College. May 10, 2008. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  19. ^ "Mickelsen Hall." Dana College. September 7, 2006. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  20. ^ "Mickelsen Hall." Dana College. October 23, 2008. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  21. ^ "Suite-Style Apartments." Dana College. October 23, 2008. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  22. ^ "Omaha Village Apartments." Dana College. September 7, 2006. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  23. ^ "Omaha Village Housing Application." Dana College. October 7, 2006. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  24. ^ "FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT LIVING ON-CAMPUS." Dana College. June 29, 2007. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  25. ^ "Weekly listing". National Park Service.
  26. ^ "Home | the Weekly D | Dana College". Archived from the original on December 6, 2008. Retrieved December 29, 2008.

On the history of Dana College and Trinity Seminary:

  • Christensen, William E. Saga of the Tower: A History of Dana College and Trinity Seminary. Blair, Nebraska: Lutheran Publishing House, 1959.
  • Petersen, Peter L. A Place Called Dana: The Centennial History of Trinity Seminary and Dana College. Blair, Nebraska: Dana College, 1984

On the history of the Danish Lutherans in America:

  • Jensen, John M. The United Evangelical Lutheran Church: An Interpretation. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1964.
  • Nyholm, Paul C. The Americanization of the Danish Lutheran Churches in America: A Study in Immigrant History. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1963.

External links[edit]

41°33′01″N 96°09′22″W / 41.55028°N 96.15611°W / 41.55028; -96.15611