Born in Duluth, in St. Louis County, Minnesota, Dahl graduated from St. Olaf College at Northfield, Minnesota. He returned to his alma mater after graduate work at the University of Minnesota to serve as Assistant Dean of Men and Professor of Speech. He was Dean of Administration at the University of Vermont. During World War II, served as Commanding Office of Naval V-12 units in New England.
He came to Southern California from Minnesota in 1957 as a representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The church wanted to build a liberal arts college in California, and sent Dahl to find a good location.
In 2003, Dr. Dahl was inducted into the California Lutheran University, Hall of Fame on a meritorious basis. Orville Dahl Centrum Buildings are situated on the northwest side of campus of California Lutheran University.
- Orville Dahl. First President of CLC (California Lutheran University)
- Obituary (Los Angeles Times. September 13, 1994)
- "Lutherans Name Head of Group to Start College". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, Calif.). September 22, 1957. p. A4. Retrieved 22 December 2009.
- Orville Dahl, Ph.D. / First President of CLC (California Lutheran University)
- Orville Dahl Centrum Buildings(California Lutheran University)