Stanley L. Olsen Chair of Moral Values

This chair is named in honor of Dr. Stanley L. Olsen — a wise and beloved faculty member (1937-71) in the areas of philosophy and religion.

ABout Dr. Stanley L. Olsen

  • Born Nov., 15, 1904 in Rowlands, PA, Dr. Olson is the son of Elizabeth Ostherhus and Jorgen Olsen.
  • 1910         Public School 136, Brooklyn, NY
  • 1922         Graduated from Manual Training High School, Brooklyn, NY
  • 1923-27   B.A. 1927, City College, NY; Major: Philosophy, Minor: English
  • 1928-29   Princeton Theological Seminary, NJ
  • 1929-30   Biblical Seminary, NY
  • 1930-32    C.T. 1932, Luther Theological Seminary, St. Paul, MN
  • 1929-33    M.A. 1933, Education, New York University (dissertation on philosophy of John Dewey)
  • 1942-43    New York University, Education
  • 1950         Ph.D., School of Education, New York University (dissertation on philosophy of William Clayton Bower)
  • 1955         Danforth Seminar, Denison University
  • 1968         Summer, University of Minnesota, Philosophy
  • 1927-28   Director of Youth Work, Trinity Lutheran Church, Brooklyn, NY
  • 1932-33   Director of Youth Work, Zion Lutheran Church, Brooklyn, NY
  • 1933-36   Faculty member, Waldorf Junior College, Forest City, IA: Christianity, Speech, English
  • 1936-37   Pastor, First English Lutheran Church, Waco, TX
  • 1942-43   Associate Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, Brooklyn, NY
  • 1937-71   Professor, Augustana College, Philosophy and Religion
  • 1958-59   On leave, teaching at Luther Theological Seminary, St. Paul, MN
  • 1971         Professor Emeritus, Augustana College
  • Married Grace Sorbye, 25 Aug. 1934, Brooklyn, NY
  • Children: Marilyn (1936), G. Curtis (1937)
  • Stanley L. Olsen died 10 March 1979, Sioux Falls, SD, at age 74.
  • Interment at Hills of Rest Memorial Park, Sioux Falls, SD
  • Grace A. Olsen died 13 August 2003, Sioux Falls, SD, at age 94.
  • Interment at Hills of Rest Memorial Park, Sioux Falls, SD

Stanley L. Olsen role at Augustana College:

  • Chairman of the Humanities Division, 1948-52, 1960-65
  • Chairman of the Detartment of Christianity and Philosophy, 1950-56
  • Chairman of the Department of Philosophy, 1956-70


  • American Association of University Professors
  • American Philosophical Association
  • Association of Lutheran College Faculties (President 1955-57)

Reflections by Sandra Looney, at the funeral of Stanley Olsen

I was a junior when I transferred to Augustana College and was immediately impressed by my professors: Don and Lucy Fryxell, Earl Mundt, Palmer Eide, and Stanley Olsen. And the respect I had in those early days only increased. These teachers are giants in the earth to me. One of the richest courses I took was as a student of Dr. Olsen's Religions of Man. I was awed by Dr. Olsen; he entered class with a briefcase full of books, and he loved those books. He'd recount rich perceptions from his readings. I often thought I had never seen a face with a more kind countenance. I lost myself in those twinkling eyes, the shaking of his head at a serious thought, the silence as he considered a student's question, the placing of his hand on his chin in his most characteristic fashion as he began his reply. Few teachers have ever conveyed to me the love of knowledge as did Dr. Olsen. I struggled with strange Hindu names, marveled at the traditions of Zoroaster, was intriguiged by the life of Mahariva. Dr. Olsen's anecdotes etched themselves on my heart; they did not allow me to remain complacent. Other students had that same reaction: his manner was mild, but those softly-spoken words were disturbing, fascinating, clarifying. I can still see, these seventeen years later, his final examination before me: two long sections of names and doctrines waiting to be appropriately matched; then the pleasure of setting down some results of his teaching in essay form. I had determined that this gentleman-scholar who had given to me all semester must have nothing but my best in return. Dr. Stanley Olsen's class gave me the foundation knowledge of world religions. As I walked through India years later, I often reflected on his teachings. But I received an even more important gift: the knowledge of what it means to be an educated person. Dr. Olsen taught, by his own life, that "The entire object of a true education is to make men not merely do the right things but enjoy the right things, not merely learned but to love knowledge, not merely industrious but to love industry, not merely just but to thirst after justice" (John Ruskin).

History of the Chair of Moral Values

In 1982 Augustana College submitted a proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for a matching grant. This successful NEH challenge grant provided support for two endowed chairs, endowment support for the Library, and support for the Center for Western Studies. The two NEH endowed chairs were initially designated as the NEH Chair of Religion and Values, and the NEH Chair of Regional Heritage. Prof. Arthur R. Huseboe served as the first NEH Chair of Regional Heritage. Dr. Huseboe also served as Professor of English, and as Executive Director of the Center for Western Studies.

Prof. Arthur L. Olsen was named as the first holder of the NEH Chair of Religion and Values, 1985-90, by Augustana President William C. Nelsen. At the same time, Dr. Olsen assumed the post of chief coordinator/implementer of Augustana's general education curriculum, as the new curriculum moved toward implementation.

Olsen served on the Augustana faculty 1956-57, 1960-96, 

1951   B.A., St. Olaf
1956   B.Th., Luther theological Seminary
1966   Th.D., Harvard University

As NEH Chair, Dr. Olsen was particularly active in developing and teaching a number of courses related to questions of value. A particularly distinctive example is Biomedical Ethics, taught with Jerry Freeman, M.D. Dr. Olsen was also tireless in his work as Director of Capstone, encouraging and supporting the development of Capstone courses as part of General Education.

Arthur L. Olsen, "How Then Shall We Live: A Household Perspective on Moral Issues," Nov 8, 1990 Convocation address, on the occasion of the official naming of the Stanley L. Olsen Chair of Moral Values.

In a Convocation on Nov. 8, 1990, this chair was officially named as the Stanley L. Olsen Chair of Moral Values.

Augustana decided to name the Chair for a wise and beloved Augustana Professor, Stanley L. Olsen, who in his work as a teacher and a faculty member, embodied what this Chair is all about.