The Augustana Magazine: Winter 2017



view from summit avenue: a message from president rob oliver

As one year ends and another begins, many of us find ourselves in a state of reflection — a time to look back on the highs and lows of the last 12 months and, for some, form resolutions to make the next 365 days better than the last.

I, too, have spent time lately reflecting — not just on the last year, but on the last 11 years during which I’ve had the honor and privilege to serve as Augustana’s president.

Unlike the desk in my office (which some might say is just a tad cluttered by paper, books, and notes), my memories seem to be organized like a helpful file cabinet, divided and sorted by the milestone events that have punctuated my life.

So I guess it was natural that in thinking back about my time at Augie, I found myself at the beginning — Oct. 6, 2006 — my inauguration.

It’s hard to put into words the emotions of that day. Of course, there were the obvious feelings of nervousness and excitement about the event itself, but more so I felt an enormous sense of responsibility — responsibility for the task ahead. The task of leading Augustana — a respected and revered institution, rich in history and tradition; a place loved and cherished by so many.

Inspired by author Jim Collins and by Augustana’s vision to become one of America’s premier church-related institutions, I spoke that day about the significance of going from good to great.

“For whom do we seek this objective of a premier designation among learning institutions? For whom do we seek to go from being very good, to being great,” I asked. “Obviously we do it for the students. But it is also alright that we do it for ourselves, and that we glorify God through our actions. A goal such as this stands before us and proclaims that no one person can accomplish it alone. A goal such as this stands before the organization and calls its members to unleash their individual and collective creative energies. A goal such as this humbles everyone and calls upon them to grasp hands and push forth into the unknown with vigor and teamwork. Why? So that together we can attain the elusive and intrinsic reward of being part of a great endeavor; a journey to achieve a most worthy objective — to create an ‘Augustana Like Always’ and an ‘Augustana Like Never Before.’”

At the time, creating an “Augustana Like Always” and an “Augustana Like Never Before” was a rallying cry. It was a challenge to remain true to our roots and our mission while also aspiring to grow, explore and discover important ideas, and create new possibilities for our students, faculty and staff, and all those we encounter.

“It shall be a daunting, but truly glorious journey, and I am so pleased and proud to be along with you for the ride. Together with God’s help, the ‘Augustana Like Never Before’ is a dream which will come true,” I said at the time.

Together as a campus community, with support from our alumni and friends, and buoyed by the great city of Sioux Falls, I believe we have indeed created an “Augustana Like Never Before.”

For me, it’s been an honor to be part of each new program, major, partnership and facility we’ve introduced over the last number of years.

I believe that fall 2016, especially, will be remembered as one of those unforgettable periods in Augustana’s history. The campus is full, big things are happening, and change is in the air. We’ve tried to provide a snapshot of the momentum and energy alive here in the pages that follow.

For Angie and me, the decision to retire wasn’t an easy one. We’ve cherished our years with Augustana. The opportunity to serve our students, to collaborate and learn from our outstanding professors, and to work with our amazing staff is something for which we will always be grateful.

For us, it has been, indeed, a truly glorious journey.

While we have been blessed with many victories over the last number of years, there is still much work to be done.

We continue to work hard at inspiring support for student scholarships. We know that an Augustana education is an invaluable investment yet, each year more families need additional financial support to make their student’s dreams of attending AU a reality.

With more support, we can offer more scholarships to students, easing the financial burden while allowing them to achieve their fullest potential.

You can help us on this mission by making a gift for student scholarships in honor of an Augie professor or staff member who had a significant impact on your life during Augustana’s first-ever Giving Day, set for Thursday, March 2. Watch for more details in your mailbox, your inbox and at

Looking ahead to the spring, I’ll be working with our Board of Trustees to create a seamless transition for Augustana’s 24th president — an individual whom I have no doubt will work hard to ensure that Augustana remains the Place for Possibilities.

Thank you for your trust, encouragement and belief in Augustana, and in me. Serving here has been the highlight of my career. I will be forever humbled and grateful for this opportunity.

It is my sincere hope that you will continue to pray for and support our Augustana throughout this transition and in the years ahead.

Yours, for Augustana,
Rob Oliver