A SCHOOL ON WHEELS--LEGACY OF THE FRONTIER
AND PRAYING SAINTS CLOSED IN THE 1970s, AND FOR MANY YEARS WE WHO WERE PRIVILEGED TO ATTEND THE ACADEMY WONDERED WHY? HOW COULD THIS HAVE HAPPENED TO OUR BELOVED ALMA MATER?--BUT THE ANSWER IS MORE SIMPLE THAN WE SUPPOSED--IT LAY CHIEFLY IN THE SPIRITUAL CAUSES, NOT THE LIMITED, MERE PHYSICAL OR FINANCIAL EXPLANATIONS WE WERE ALWAYS GIVEN AND WHICH THE HALF-BLIND HUMAN MIND, GUIDED ONLY BY NATURAL SIGHT, CAN ONLY SUPPLY.
Let us review the history of this notable
Christian endeavor called Augustana Academy.
Augustana College and Augustana Academy
formerly existed as one Christian educational institution. The school dates its
existence from the year 1860 when it was established in a
church at Chicago, Illinois, with a name that reflected the
frontier vision of its founders. It was moved successively
with the tide of mostly Scandinavian pioneer settlers to
Paxton, Illinois, Marshall, Wisconsin, Beliot, Iowa, and
finally [but not finally, if prophecy concerning AA is yet to be fulfilled, and prayers for AA yet to be fulfilled] to Canton, South
Dakota. It began with a need for spiritual training, and it ended when that spiritual training had lost its focus and no longer was directed by the Holy Spirit, our quintessential Fount of inspiration and blessing.
TWO SISTER CENTERS OF LEARNING
In 1917, the College department of Augustana
was moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Canton, however,
deeply regretted the loss of the school and its testimony
of Christian education in their midst. The high school
department, therefore, was reinstituted in Canton, where it
remained and was operated under various managements until,
in 1932, the Augustana Academy Association was formed.
This Association continued to manage the Academy at Canton
[until the closing in the 1970's]. For many years it had
been the sole parochial high school in the branch of the
Lutheran Church to which it was affiliated, and it closed
as the last of its kind. A unique institution with an
outstanding touring choir, outstanding scholarship, and
outstanding graduates was lost to the Church, the Canton
and South Dakota regions, and to the nation at large.
Could this have been God's will? Now it would appear that
such a school is more needed today than it was previously.
It is perfectly clear that the tremendous role it played in
educating generations of young Christian men and women
should never have been allowed to fall by the
"The objective of this college [or Christian
school] is a liberal and thorough Christian education of
men and women. In the attainment of this objective the
college is mindful of responsibility to the individual
student, to its supporting church, and to
"This college aims to serve the individual
student by providing an integrated program of spiritual,
mental, and physical development: to serve the Evangelical
Lutheran Church by helping to supply consecrated and
enlightened leadership, both ordained and lay, in every
field of Christian service; to serve society by fostering
Christian ideals of patriotism and world
"In carrying out its objective the college
aims to help the student to:
"Grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ;
appreciate the place of the Bible in education and in life;
establish habits of conduct based on Christian ethical
principles; cultivate the virtues requisite to Christian
stewardship; be loyal to the highest ideals of
"Take an active part in the building of the Church;
respond to the call for men and women to devote full time
to the service; worship regularly; increase in knowledge of
all that honors the Christian message.
"Arrive at a mature comprehension and application of
evangelical Lutheran doctrine and a tolerant understanding
of the various denominations within the Christian
The above is a statement of the Christian
objectives of one of our colleges. It expresses the
Christian aims of all our schools. They present the reason
why our church people gladly support our schools with large
gifts and sums of money [and faithful prayer
support]."-- But it does not speak of the role, the essential role, of the Holy Spirit. That was a main lack in this statement of purpose. For a good reason, that lack contributed directly to the decline and eventual failure and closing of Augustana Academy in the 1970s, for without the leading of the Holy Spirit, in the immortal words of Robert Burns, the "best laid plans o' man gang aft agley."--R.G.
This portrayal of Christian education is taken from the
program bulletin at the commemoration of the loudspeaker,
microphone and public address system, and Old Main tower
carrilons donated by Alfred and
Bessie Stadem of Bryant, SD, in memory of their son, an
Augustana Academy graduate who died in a fatal plane crash,
January 9, 1947
I asked for information from a classmate, Clint Asbenson, and he graciously forwarded a letter to me, so that I can now share an excerpt with all of you who have a love for Augustana Academy that the many passing years cannot take away (you are those who were fundamentally changed and transformed by A.A., not those who just "attended" for whatever reason they could think of).
"Now to a totally different item. I just received letter from a 1960 classmate of mine named Ronnie Ginther of Puyallup, Washington. Mom told me later that she remembered that one time I came home from the Academy and told her about Ronnie Ginther and something about the Holy Spirit. It wasn't until the 1970s that sis Jewel, Mom Beulah, myself and more in our family were born-again and baptized in the Holy Spirit. Like 800,000 other Lutherans we left the church that clung to ritual instead of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ daily abiding in Him.
"Ronnie asked if the closure of Augustana Academy was caused by the refusal of the Administration to teach the students about the Holy Spirit. One time while talking with brother Wes he told me that when the students had asked, the Administration said, "You take that Holy Spirit stuff off campus!" So the Holy Spirit and His blessing and finances left and the Academy closed the next year. He said they tried to blame it on all kinds of things. If any ministry is right with the Lord He supplies all the money to keep it going.
"Ronnie was saved at a revival at A.A. I knew he was different. His eyes were full of the Light of the Lord. Later I saw that in a former Lutheran who prayed for me at a Retreat Center near Palm Springs. The Lord led me to that place where I could identify with their background. Pastor Bruce Sonnenberg prayed with me as I repented and was radically transformed in front of him. What a privilege it was to attend Augie with kids from the U.S. and in many other countries.
"When we were back in South Dakota I had to go over to Augie and walk around the place and look at that beautiful building of rose quartzite from Sioux Falls. It was made to stand. On one Augie Reunion day at Augustana College I saw the house where Ole Rolvaag wrote his books and how he had come from a remote island of
Norway and attended A.A. My aunt Viola taught my mom Beulah Scott at the Academy. My uncles also attended. We moved from 30 miles northwest of Mitchell to attend. Yes, the liberals moved it off the WORD of GOD and taught modern social ethic instead of the Bible. He [Ronnie Ginther] told of some praying women who prayed fervently for Augie..."
The devout, humble, faithful praying women that had A.A. on their hearts day and night have all gone on to their reward in heaven, but their precious prayers--they may still be waiting for God's answer. Could it be that those prayers require some bending of the knees and praying on our part, for the burden of prayer to be lifted?
Have we cared enough for the Dream and Vision of A.A. to pray for God's "closure," which may not be a closure at all in the sense we saw it when the Academy's doors were shut and the students sent home?
Without our joining our prayers now with theirs, we cannot take the torch of Christian education handed to us, and it will eventually go out. The Holy Spirit will only wait so long, and He will pass it to others, somewhere else, who will be faithful to pick it up and carry it on.
My prayer is that God will be merciful to us, as He was merciful to the errant, neglectful, selfish people of God in the time of Haggai the Prophet, and bend down once again to us with the bright, burning Torch of the Holy Spirit, igniting our spirits anew to follow the Lord as Abraham and our forefathers once followed Him, whithersoever He leadeth. I pray that the Vision and Dream of A.A. bequeathed to us will not die out in our hands--a TRAGEDY, A WASTE, AN EGREGRIOUS NEGLECT OF GODLY HERITAGE, LEGACY AND OPPORTUNITY I do not want to bear responsibility for while there is grace is mercy to effect a real change.
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