Luther Hosts Donor Recognition and Appreciation event


Luther donors sing “To Luther” at the conclusion of the Donor Recognition and Appreciation on April 2. (Photo courtesy of Armando Jenkins-Vazquez/Luther College Photo Bureau)

For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Luther hosted its Donor Recognition and Appreciation celebration in the Center for Faith and Life. The event highlighted the contributions of members of Luther’s premier giving programs: the President’s Council, the Legacy Trust Scholarship Program, and the Heritage Club. Additionally, the Pioneer Memorial Award was given to Jim Fields (‘54) for his exemplary donations to Luther College. 


Members of the President’s Council have donated $1,500 or more in a previous calendar year, while Legacy Trust Scholarships are endowed or annual scholarships created by donors. Members of the Heritage Club have indicated they are including Luther College in their estate plans. Karen Austad (‘64) was one of many who were recognized at the event for becoming Life Members of the President’s Council, a position awarded to those who contribute donations of $100,000 or more. Austad, along with fifteen other women from her class, created the Vanaheim Scholarship for female students that have demonstrated a need for financial assistance and a passion for their major field of study. Austad expressed her love for Luther, and how she was able to find her lifelong friends at the institution.


“I graduated in 1964; I still have friends who come [back] and we have a reunion every year. They are coming this year, and we are celebrating our 80th birthday,” Austad said. “We’re 80 years old! This group of women wanted to have a legacy, so we started [the Vanaheim Scholarship].”


Also at the event, the annual Pioneer Memorial Award was given to Jim Fields of El Paso, Texas. According to Senior Director of Development Nate Ersig (‘98), Fields received the award because his donations were used to establish the James Fields Class of ‘54 scholarship in 1997. This scholarship gives financial support to Luther students majoring in mathematics, computer science, and education. Luther students were given the opportunity to thank various donors in attendance– like Fields– for their generosity over the years. Salome Valdivieso (‘23) spoke at the event, and reflected on her experience as an international student who has received three Legacy scholarships. 


“In this little corner of the driftless area, I am proud to say that I am a member of the Luther family,” Valdivieso said. “It is thanks to people like you who have made an intentional effort to invest in Luther, making this a more diverse and welcoming community for everyone. As I reflect on my journey, I cannot thank you enough for supporting students like me in our academic endeavors.”


President Jenifer K. Ward concluded the ceremony by reflecting on her experience as Luther College’s president and the hardships Luther has faced since the start of the pandemic. She specifically noted how donations have helped various projects on campus; the new Nurse Simulation Lab is near-completion, and this summer the Sports and Recreation Center will undergo a $1.2 million renovation project and name change. Ward thanked donors for their generosity towards the Luther community as well as for what the college has been able to accomplish through their donations.


“Those of you gathered here today have certainly shown that you acknowledge and affirm Luther College through your generous philanthropy,” Ward said. “Because of you, exciting projects [will be completed], and we could not undertake them without you. Thank you on behalf of our students, faculty and staff.”


Gifts can be made year-round to support Luther College by donating to the Luther Fund. More information about gift types, ways to donate and specific areas to support can be found at