Wartburg College

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Wartburg College
Motto Be Orange.
Established 1852
Type Private
Affiliation Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Endowment $33 Million
President Darrel D. Colson
Academic staff
Undergraduates 1,500
Location Waverly, Iowa and
Denver, Colorado
Campus rural, 118 acres (48 ha)
Colors Orange & Black          
Nickname Knights
Website www.wartburg.edu

Wartburg College is a four-year liberal arts college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America located in Waverly, Iowa. Wartburg West is in Denver, Colorado.

As of 2012, the most popular programs of study at Wartburg were (in order): business, biology, elementary education, and speech communication/rhetoric.[1] Wartburg's social work program is the oldest undergraduate program of its kind in Iowa. Wartburg is the only private college in Iowa offering a music therapy major. The college is highly competitive and has an 89 percent medical school placement rate and a 100 percent placement rate in other fields of medicine.

In 2007 U.S. News & World Report rated Wartburg College 6th for academic excellence among Midwestern comprehensive colleges which primarily award bachelor's degrees, and 2nd in terms of "bang for the buck" (i.e. best value when tuition costs, scholarship aid, and academics are compared).


Wartburg College was founded in 1852 in Saginaw, Michigan, by Georg M. Grossman, a native of Neuendettelsau, Bavaria. Grossmann was sent by Pastor Wilhelm Löhe to establish a pastor training school for German immigrants. The location of the college moved many times between Illinois and Iowa until permanently settling in Waverly in 1935. Also in 1935, St. Paul Luther College of the Phalen Park neighborhood of Saint Paul, Minnesota merged into Wartburg College.

The college is named after Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, Germany, where Martin Luther was protected during the stormy days of the Reformation. Student and alumni groups often travel to the castle, and the Wartburg Choir has performed in the castle several times. Waverly and Eisenach are sister towns, and they often swap foreign exchange students. The college is proud of its German heritage, and celebrates an annual student-declared one-day holiday Outfly,[2] a deliberately mistaken translation of the German noun Ausflug. Another German element of campus life is the granite inscription on the Chapel: "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott", which English-speaking Lutherans sing as A Mighty Fortress is Our God.

Campus buildings are named after places and people in Wartburg's history, including Grossmann, Luther, Saginaw, Galena, etc. The college is nearing the end of a long-term effort to unify the architectural appearance of the campus, with new music, library, stadium, cafeteria, and science buildings over the past 15 years. An array of skywalks and building corridors now allows students to walk from one end of campus to the other without having to go outside.

In 2008 the new Wartburg-Waverly Sports and Wellness Center, an indoor athletic complex co-sponsored by the city of Waverly, opened. The new center includes a performance arena, an indoor track, and natatorium. It replaces Knights Gymnasium, the longtime home of Wartburg Basketball and Volleyball, as well as the Physical Education Center which formerly adjoined the old gym.

The longstanding rivalry between Luther College in Decorah, Iowa and Wartburg College has produced colorful moments over several years. The origins of the rivalry are vague. Stories of pranks date back to the 1940s. The rivalry has, for the most part, been characterized by fun and good sportsmanship. The rivalry rose to new heights in October 1996, when two clever Wartburg cross-country runners rented a light plane, flew to Decorah, and dropped leaflets on the Luther campus. The incident was reported in every major newspaper in Iowa, got national mention on the Fox network and made Rolling Stone magazine's list of the most memorable college pranks of the 1996-1997 year. The creativity in the rivalry continued when student staff members of the college radio station, KWAR, secretly entered a float in the Luther College Homecoming Parade. The staff members decorated the float as an environmental club - the Organization of Nature Enthusiasts - from Luther College. In front of judges stand, the float quickly changed colors from blue and white to orange and black. The float continued all the way through town and onto Luther's campus, with numerous Wartburg students joining the procession from the crowd as the parade passed them.[3]

Financial Struggles and Identity Crisis[edit]

The Presidency of Jack Ole[edit]

Jack Ohle held the presidency of Wartburg College from 1998 to 2008, during which time a number of expensive construction projects were undertaken on campus, including the Wartburg-Waverly Sports Center. As a result of the spending, however, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Ohle left Wartburg in a state of financial unrest. This academic newspaper has noted that the financing "has raised red flags with its accreditor, alarmed some faculty members, and left Wartburg with a credit rating just one notch above 'junk.'" It has "created some tensions" with the local community and was likely to soon "find itself in violation of a bond covenant requiring it to have at least half as much in unrestricted assets as it has in debt and other liabilities." The situation has forced Wartburg to raise tuition at 8% annually.[4]

The Presidency of Darrel Colson[edit]

In 2015, Fitch Ratings "assigned a 'BB' rating to approximately $84.6 million private college revenue refunding bonds, series 2015 issued by the Iowa Higher Education Loan Authority on behalf of Wartburg College," downgrading the college's financial rating to "Negative from Stable."[5] According to an article published in the College's campus newspaper, The Trumpet, Wartburg's credit rating is "considered 'speculative or junk.'”[6] According to Richard Seggerman, Wartburg's vice president for finance and administration, "[t]he debt comes from capital projects" including "the buildings and the equipment related to them...the science center, the student center and The [Waverly-Wartburg Sports Center]," all projects originating during Jack Ohle's tenure as President of the College.[7]

In October 2015, Wartburg made local and national headlines for the Dean of Faculty's recommendation to reduce the college's faculty by a dozen because of declining enrollment and the lack of “institutional need.”[8] In an article appearing in Inside Higher Ed, it was reported that "declining enrollment and a $3.7 million budget gap" stemming from the Ohle administration's spending contributed to the recommendation.[9] As a result of the recommendations, the article reported, Wartburg College has come under fire both for the ways in which the situation has been handled as well as the implications the cuts would have on the college's identity as a liberal arts institution. According to the article, "[t]he professors [whose positions were recommended to be cut] were notified their jobs were at risk by being copied on a memo to their respective chairs. A note at the bottom indicated that mental health services were available to them."[10][11] The treatment of the professors as well as the fact that the recommendations, if implemented, would leave the college without full-time professors in Philosophy, Ethics, American Literature, Theater, Graphic Design, and French,[12] has led students to protest the cuts[13][14] and has left the campus in a "tumult" over the perception that it may no longer be a liberal arts college after such drastic measures.[15]


  • Georg M. Grossman 1852-1868
  • John Klindworth 1868-1875
  • Georg Grossmann 1878-1894
  • Friedrich Lutz 1894-1905
  • Gerhard Bergstraesser 1905-1909
  • Friedrich Richter 1894-1899 (Clinton IA)
  • Otto Kraushaar 1899-1907 (Clinton IA)
  • John Fritschel 1907-1919 (Clinton IA)
  • Otto Proehl 1919-1935 (Clinton IA)
  • August Engelbrecht 1909-1933
  • Edward J. Braulick 1935-1945
  • Conrad Becker 1945-1964
  • John Bachman 1964-1974
  • William Jellema 1974-1980
  • Robert L. Vogel 1980-1998
  • Jack R. Ohle 1998-2008
  • William Hamm 2008-2009 (Interim)
  • Darrel Colson 2009–Present

Location of the College[edit]

Wartburg College has moved many times throughout its history:[16]


Wartburg College teams participate as a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division III. The Knights are a member of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC). Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, tennis, track & field and wrestling; while women's sports include basketball, cheerleading, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field, volleyball, and lacrosse. The women's lacrosse team competes in the Midwest Women's Lacrosse Conference (MWLC). In the spring of 2012, Wartburg’s wrestling and women’s track and field teams led Wartburg to become the only school in NCAA history to win two national team championships on the same day.

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. News & World Report, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/wartburg-college-1896. Accessed December 4, 2013
  2. ^ "The Official Home of Outfly". Info.wartburg.edu. Retrieved 2012-06-14. 
  3. ^ D3football.com - Midwest Region Notes by Don Stoner
  4. ^ Blumenstyk, Goldie (2009-04-10). "Concerns about Debt Hover over a Small College in Iowa". Chronicle of Higher Education 55 (31). ISSN 0009-5982. 
  5. ^ "Fitch Rates Wartburg College, IA's Revs Series 2015 'BB'; Outlook Negative | Business Wire". www.businesswire.com. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  6. ^ "Wartburg credit rating outlook called ‘Negative’". wartburgcircuit.org. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  7. ^ "Wartburg credit rating outlook called ‘Negative’". wartburgcircuit.org. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  8. ^ "Wartburg cuts faculty". Community Newspaper Group. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  9. ^ "Wartburg College and other liberal arts institutions make drastic cuts, challenging their identities as liberal institutions. | Inside Higher Ed". www.insidehighered.com. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  10. ^ "Wartburg College and other liberal arts institutions make drastic cuts, challenging their identities as liberal institutions. | Inside Higher Ed". www.insidehighered.com. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  11. ^ "A College without Philosophy? A Philosophy Department without Philosophers? (updated)". Daily Nous. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  12. ^ Gehrz, Chris. "When Does a Liberal Arts College Cease to Be a Liberal Arts College?". The Pietist Schoolman. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  13. ^ "Budget problems have hit Wartburg College hard this year.". decorahnews.com (in en-US). Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  14. ^ "Wartburg examining faculty reductions". Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  15. ^ "Wartburg College and other liberal arts institutions make drastic cuts, challenging their identities as liberal institutions. | Inside Higher Ed". www.insidehighered.com. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  16. ^ Wartburg College, Locations

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°43′45″N 92°28′55″W / 42.72911°N 92.48197°W / 42.72911; -92.48197