Biographical / Historical
Martin Luther Academy could trace its roots back to the founding of Dr. Martin Luther College (DMLC) in 1884. At the time, what would eventually become Martin Luther Academy was known only as the “high school department” of DMLC. What started as six and eventually became eight grades shared the same campus atop the ridge that cut through New Ulm, Minnesota. In November 1962, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) decided to separate the high school department from the college to create an “academy”, with the express purpose to train young men and women who planned to go on to DMLC to become a Lutheran Elementary School teacher or Northwestern College (NWC) in Watertown, Wisconsin to study to become a pastor. At the same time, the DMLC Board of Control purchased land for a future separate campus only a few blocks from the college. Professor Oscar Siegler was called as the first president of Dr. Martin Luther High School and began his duties on 1 June 1963. The Synod also established a separate Board of Control for the preparatory school, comprising of two teachers, two laymen and three pastors. In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther High School opened its doors as a separate high school from the college on-campus. Before the 1965 school year, Dr. Martin Luther High School became Martin Luther Academy (MLA), to emphasize the school’s special purpose of sending students on to DMLC or NWC. MLA continued to share the facilities of the New Ulm campus with DMLC, with female students primarily living in Centennial Hall and male students living on the lower floors of Summit Hall. Both student bodies shared the Luther Memorial Union, as well as the classroom and administration buildings on campus. Because MLA shared facilities with DMLC, the preparatory school was able to develop its music and athletics programs, having large percentages of the student body taking part in choir, band and a variety of sports, as well as a number of extracurricular activities such as student publications (The Ram-Page & The Rambler), the Science Club and the Student Council. As time passed, students from across the country and from as far away as Japan, Africa and Hong Kong enrolled at Martin Luther Academy to prepare for the preaching or teaching ministry. By the 1970s, Martin Luther Academy’s enrollment was increasing in size each school year. This put a great deal of pressure on the campus itself as it became challenging for both MLA & DMLC to co-exist on the same campus. Thus in 1975, a self-study of Martin Luther Academy began to evaluate if it was necessary to move MLA to a separate campus. The possibility of building a completely new school on the land purchased a few blocks from the current campus or elsewhere was considered. At the same time, a plan was developed to amalgamate MLA with Northwestern Lutheran Academy of Mobridge, South Dakota and Northwestern Preparatory School of Watertown, Wisconsin on the same campus as well. This idea soon became prohibitive when the potential price tag was running over twelve million dollars. At the same time the 108-acre campus of Campion Jesuit High School in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin became available at a fraction of its real value. The possibility of purchasing this campus and moving MLA to the site became a very real possibility by June 1978. In a special session of the WELS at that time, the decision was passed to purchase the Campion property to serve as MLA’s new home with the new name, Martin Luther Preparatory School, beginning with the 1979-1980 school year.
The Martin Luther Academy Papers 3
In June 1979, Martin Luther Academy, the former high school department of Dr. Martin Luther College, matriculated its final graduating class and closed its doors on the New Ulm campus permanently. 151 students from MLA, with most of the faculty, and Oscar Siegler, continuing as president, as well as sixty students and a handful of professors from the newly-closed Northwestern Lutheran Academy of Mobridge, South Dakota, made the move in the fall of 1979 to their new school home in Prairie du Chien. More information on the transition from MLA to MLPS can be found in Mark W. Henrich’s essay, “How MLA in New Ulm, Minnesota Became MLPS in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin”, located at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Library, Mequon, Wisconsin.