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The Northwestern College Archival Collection

Identifier: S006
This collection reflects the wide array of people, activities, and functions of the College throughout its one hundred thirty year history. The files include various correspondence, reports, records, agendas and minutes for the administration and departmental operations of the college. There are also many publications and essays which related to various aspects of the school. In addition, many photographs, slides, artifacts, and memorabilia have been preserved which exhibit the day-to-day life of the College. The collection consists of the following series:

Series 1: Board Minutes

Series 2: Faculty Minutes

Series 3: Faculty

Subseries 3a: Biographical Items & Personal Effects

Subseries 3b: Miscellaneous Correspondence

Series 4: Academic Records

Series 5: Curriculum

Subseries 5a: Curriculum Revisions

Subseries 5b: Academic Affairs Committee (AAC)

Subseries 5c: Miscellaneous Files

Series 6: Accreditation

Series 7: Prep School & Amalgamation Issues

Series 8: Recruitment

Series 9: Finance

Subseries 9a: General Operation

Subseries 9b: Budget

Subseries 9c: Financial Reports

Subseries 9d: Scholarships & Trust Funds

Subseries 9e: Booster Club

Series 10: External Organizations

Subseries 10a: Government Regulations

Subseries 10b: Aid Association for Lutherans (AAL)

Subseries 10c: Miscellaneous Organizations

Series 11: Conferences

Subseries 11a: Administration Conferences

Subseries 11b: Faculty Conferences

Subseries 11c: Lay Bible Institutes

Series 12: Ministerial Education

Subseries 12a: Board Materials—Toppe Era

Subseries 12b: Synod Scholarship Committee Materials

Subseries 12c: Board Meeting Materials—Voss Era

Series 13: General Administration

Series 14: Buildings

Series 15: Library

Series 16: Music

Series 17: Drama & Literary Organizations

Subseries 17a: Miscellaneous Files

Subseries 17b: Year-by-Year Files

Series 18: Athletics

Subseries 18a: General Histories, Statistics & Records

Subseries 18b: Year-by-Year Files

Series 19: Special Events

Subseries 19a: Commencement

Subseries 19b: Campus Anniversaries

Subseries 19c: Miscellaneous Special Events

Series 20: Miscellaneous Student Organizations

Series 21: Students & Alumni

Subseries 21a: Alumni Society

Subseries 21b: Biographical Items & Personal Effects

Series 22: Miscellaneous Files

Series 23: Publications

Subseries 23a: Annual Catalog

Subseries 23b: Mnema (Yearbook)

Subseries 23c: Handbooks

Subseries 23d: Northwestern Today (Campus Newsletter)

Subseries 24e: Black and Red (Student Magazine)

Subseries 23f: Miscellaneous Publications

Series 24: Histories of Northwestern College

Subseries 24a: Published Histories

Subseries 24b: Miscellaneous Articles & Histories

Series 25: Maps

Series 26: Artifacts

Series 27: Audio-Visual Materials

Series 28: Photographs

Subseries 28a: Athletics

Subseries 28b: Buildings and Landmarks

Subseries 28c: Faculty and Staff

Subseries 28d: Fine Arts

Subseries 28e: General Students

Subseries 28f: Miscellaneous

Subseries 28g: Special Events

Subseries 28h: Student Organizations

Series 29: Plaques

Series 30: Slides

Subseries 30a: Standard Photographic Slides

Subseries 30b: Lantern Slides

Series 31: Negatives

Subseries 31a: Standard Photographic Negatives

Subseries 31b: Copper Plate Negatives


  • 1854 - 2001


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70 Box : 70 Boxes that are record boxes, and plastic totes. Other records are found in flat file drawers.

Biographical / Historical

The following excerpts from an article published June 12, 1976, in the Watertown Daily Times (sec. 7, page 7) provides a good synopsis of the history of Northwestern College to that point:

Northwestern College Is 111 Years Old

To the visitor touring the Northwestern College campus in Watertown, the inscriptions on the cornerstone of the Chapel-Arts Building are a bit puzzling. One face of the cornerstone reads: NWC 1956; the other, NWU 1864-1894. How did the university become a college?

Yes, Northwestern College was once called Northwestern University; it was even called Wisconsin University at first. And therein lies a story of its continuing purpose. When the school was opened as an academy in 1865 and was chartered as a four-year college in 1867, its first president, Adam Martin, was seriously bent on broadening the original purpose of the school, which was to apply itself to the training of pastors for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the church body that established the school. He wanted Wisconsin University, as it was briefly called, to become a school that offered “opportunities for a thorough and complete course of collegiate education equal to any in the land.” President Martin advertised that the course was like that of all the colleges. It was designed to prepare the student for any business station, or for entering any college in the country. What President Martin wanted was not only a quality college; he hoped that it would become as well known nationally as Cambridge or New Haven or Ann Arbor.

Plans Not Followed—Had President Martin’s plans been followed, Northwestern College might not have become a great university, but it might well have joined the ranks of other denominational colleges that now have only loose connection with the church bodies that founded them. The effect such a dispersion and diversion of the educational program would have had on the pastor-training function of the college and on the confessional position of the Wisconsin Synod may readily be surmised. President Martin’s dream constituted a critical test of the fledgling school’s purpose and demanded an early reaffirmation of its function.

The school suffered from half-hearted support by its sponsoring synod during the administration of President Martin, who tried to impose an American college curriculum on the pre-theological school, and during the administration of his successor, Lewis Thompson. Efforts were made to build up an endowment fund for the college by selling perpetual scholarships for $500.

By the time August F. Ernst, a young clergyman from New York State, assumed the presidency of the college in 1871, the school’s program was more nearly what the Synod had resolved eight years before that it should be, namely, a college whose principal function was the training of pastors. The pattern its basic curriculum followed was that of the German “Gymnasium.”

Four Departments—Despite this, however, the college continued for many years to call itself a university because for a time it maintained the minimum four departments to qualify it as a university, namely, liberal arts, theology, education (normal school), and business. The normal school department was transferred to Doctor Martin Luther College in the New Ulm, Minn., in the 1890’s; the last vestiges of a business course disappeared after World War II. The theology department had actually been dropped in 1869, when the seminary left the campus. Today Northwestern College is purely a pre-seminary, liberal arts college. More than 90 per cent of its graduates go on to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary at Mequon, Wis.

Curriculum—The core curriculum has remained essentially the same throughout the century. To understand it, one must note that portions of it span more than four college years. It is based on a specialized high school program that included four years of Latin and two years of German, plus four years each of English, religion, and history. Biology, chemistry, physics, algebra, geometry, and music are also required subjects….

The stress on language study is obvious. This emphasis is in keeping with the concern of the college and of the church body that sponsors it, namely, to base its theology on a direct study of the Scriptures in the original Greek and Hebrew, rather than to depend upon secondary materials for that foundation. The emphasis on Latin and German demonstrates a concern for the theological literature of the Reformation, which was issued in those languages. Latin also serves as an introduction to language study in general. Every Northwestern College graduate is a language major.

Buildings—All except one of the campus buildings have been erected since 1950. The only structure that is more than 25 years old is the Music-Auditorium, which was built in 1912 as a gymnasium. It served as a gymnasium until 1971, when a new physical education building was erected. Since then the ground floor has been remodeled to provide facilities for the music department. Plans are now underway to renovate the main floor of the building to serve the school and the community more conveniently as an auditorium.

Not that the gymnasium hadn’t served as an auditorium in the past. Many school function – concerts, recitals, plays, opening exercises, graduation exercises – were held there. Artists of national and international repute performed on the temporary stage that sometimes has to be set up between basketball games (The present stage was added in 1950)….

New Dormitories—Not all of the buildings on the campus are as multi-purpose as this one has been. There are two new dormitories for college men (Wittenberg and Wartburg Halls)…Classes are held in the Chapel-Arts Building, the Library-Science Building, and in the Music-Auditorium. Food service is provided in the cafeteria. The west wing of this building also houses the administration offices.

The campus covers nearly 40 acres. In addition to the institutional buildings in the college park, there are 14 faculty residences on the premises. A football field, baseball field, tennis courts, and a general practice field occupy the north half of the campus.

Athletic Program—The athletic program offers, in addition to the standard football-basketball-baseball sequence, such sports as soccer, tennis, golf, wrestling, track, cross country, bowling, softball, plus a well organized physical education program that also includes archery, flag football, volleyball, gymnastics, tumbling, and paddle ball. Even the most versatile athlete and the most rabid physical culture enthusiast will not be able to do justice to the wide variety of activities supervised by Lloyd Thompson, the school’s athletic director. For those who want to watch their bulging muscles develop, there is even a mirrored and carpeted weight room.

Northwestern College does not produce music majors, but it offers a fairly extensive music program. Over 100 of its students are taking keyboard instruction, a number of them on the organ. Classroom instruction in music is required all four years in the Preparatory School and for three semesters in college. Several electives in music are also available. The four major singing groups exhibit the school’s interest in vocal music….The band director and chairman of the music department is Dr. Arnold Lehmann….

Long Tenures—Long tenures have been the rule for faculty members. The six men who retired from the faculty in the late 50’s and middle 60’s served Northwestern an average of 46 years each. Dr. Kiessling, who retired in 1973, completed exactly that total of years of service. After the first few troubled years, changes in the presidency have also been infrequent. August F. Ernst served as president from 1871-1919, Erwin E. Kowalke from 1919-1959; the president incumbent is Carleton Toppe…

The aim and purpose of Northwestern College has been narrowed considerably since its uncertain early years. Its program is now exclusively pre-ministerial. Though it is no longer the kind of “community” school that once provided a general high school education and college training for many business and professional men and women in Watertown, it is still an important contributor to the community – economically, culturally, and spiritually. Northwestern College continued its role in the training of ministers for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod until 1995, when it was amalgamated with Doctor Martin Luther College, in New Ulm, MN, to form Martin Luther College on the New Ulm campus.

Repository Details

Part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod Archives Repository