The Rev. Dr. Stanley N. Olson Named Interim President of Trinity Lutheran Seminary

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COLUMBUS, Ohio, Friday, July 7, 2017 – The Rev. Dr. Stanley N. Olson has been named interim president of Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Capital University and the Seminary announced today. The Seminary’s Board of Directors passed a resolution Friday morning electing Olson to a five-month term as president, effective August 1 through December 31, 2017. Trinity’s current president, the Rev. Dr. Rick Barger, announced in May 2016 he would retire in August 2017, concluding a dynamic and influential four-year term. 

“Trinity Lutheran Seminary’s Board of Directors took an important step today in ensuring steady leadership for the seminary and advancing its reunion with Capital University,” Trinity’s board chair, Carrie Cubberley, said. “Dr. Olson will ensure a seamless leadership transition as we build toward a bold future with Capital University.” 

An experienced leader in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its seminaries, Olson will provide strong leadership for Trinity and will be another driving force in constructing a stable foundation for the Seminary’s re-integration with neighboring Capital University. Capital and Trinity announced last November they would pursue a reunion of the two institutions. Under the new structure, which upon board approval will take effect January 1, 2018, Trinity will become the seminary of Capital University, and will be led by a dean. A search for the dean is under way.

“With an uncommon breadth of academic, church, pastoral and governance experience, Dr. Olson will advance the Capital-Trinity integration process and continue to lead the academic excellence for which Trinity’s programs are nationally recognized,” Capital President Beth Paul said. “He will sharpen our work as our communities fuse together to re-engineer operations, develop innovative programs, and shape student experiences that advance our shared mission and society.”

“With an uncommon breadth of academic, church, pastoral and governance experience, Dr. Olson will advance the Capital-Trinity integration process and continue to lead the academic excellence for which Trinity’s programs are nationally recognized.”


- Dr. Elizabeth Paul, Capital University President

Olson retired in 2015 from the presidency of Wartburg Theological Seminary, in Iowa, where he had served since 2011. Prior to his election as president, Olson was executive director for vocation and education from 2005 to 2011, and executive director for ministry from 2002 to 2005 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

An ordained pastor in the ELCA since 1976, the Reverend served First Lutheran Church, in Duluth, Minn., taught New Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., and was senior pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minn., prior to answering the call to serve as bishop of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod from 1994 to 2002. He has served on the boards of St. Olaf College, Waldorf College, Luther Seminary and Gustavus Adolphus College, among other governance and consultation posts.

“I am honored to accept the call to lead this distinguished seminary of the ELCA in a time of transition,” Olson said. “The world is in great need of the kind of leaders Trinity has formed and will form through exceptional theological education. Now, with renewed and deepened ties to Capital University, Trinity will continue its faithful and imaginative work, discovering ways to serve even more learners, from different walks of life, in diverse disciplines and vocations, and at many points in life. I am eager to work with faculty, board, administration and others so that together we can sustain the mission and carry forward the good work of reuniting these institutions for the sake of the world.” 

Olson holds masters and doctoral degrees from Yale, a Master of Divinity from Luther Theological Seminary, and bachelor’s and associate’s degrees from St. Olaf and Waldorf colleges, respectively. Olson is married to Nancy L. Olson who is an ELCA Deacon. They are the parents of two adult daughters and grandparents to four.

About the Capital-Trinity Reunion 
Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary have been working toward reunion since November 2016. The intent to pursue reunion is driven by an alignment in mission and strong belief that, reunited, the institutions can have greater positive impact on the world than they can achieve separately. Together, Capital and Trinity can form leaders who are change agents in a world in dire need of exceptional education at the intersection of intellectual, social, personal and spiritual preparation to empower citizens who will lead for the sake of the world.

From 1830 to 1959, Capital and Trinity were united behind a shared mission as one institution, and only separated at the direction of the American Lutheran Church. They remained collaborative in academics, student support and service, but have done so informally. The church since has changed its policy, creating an opportunity for a reunion of Capital and Trinity. Reuniting formalizes a relationship that has been in place for decades, with the added shared gifts and rich heritage brought by Hamma Divinity School.

This reunion heightens a renewed connection to the institutions’ Lutheran heritage and purpose. The union will strengthen identity and create distinction. Together, Trinity with Capital can excel at: 

  • Mission for the sake of the world – educating and forming a new generation of faith-informed leaders for the emerging world. 
  • Leading cutting-edge pedagogy in interdisciplinary degrees at undergraduate and graduate levels via multiple modes of delivery to reach more potential students. 
  • Delivering relevant experiences, events, and speakers on our campuses and across the globe that inspire students to impact the community and our world. 
  • Forming leaders with an ethic of inclusivity and with ecological passion and commitment.
The reunion will support strong institutional identity and educational excellence. The success of the reunion is reliant on the development of a sustainable business model, which can be achieved by developing new revenue streams through gifts and grants, diversifying tuition revenue streams through new, interdisciplinary programs, optimizing use of property, buildings and other physical assets, and integrating operations and eliminating redundancies.

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