Richard Torgerson Obituary – Death: Former Luther President Richard Torgerson Death Cause: Richard Torgerson has passed away unexpectedly. The circumstances surrounding his death has not been made public at the time of this publication. We ask that at this time, you allow the family to take the appropriate and needed time, to make preparations and grieve as family.
On Sunday, October 30, 2022, Richard “Rick” Torgerson, Luther’s eighth president, passed away.
From 1999 through 2013, Torgerson and his wife Judy worked at Luther for two periods. Sampson Hoffland Laboratories, the Center for the Arts, the Legends Fitness Center, and the Aquatic Center were among the significant facilities the college added to the campus during their leadership.
Major alterations and extensions were also done to Loyalty Hall, Dahl Centennial Union, Jenson-Noble Music Hall, Valders Hall of Science, and all residence halls under Torgerson. Bentdahl Commons was built, the core campus green spaces and roads were rearranged, and other improvements were made, further elevating Luther’s reputation as one of the most stunning campuses in the country.
To help Luther enter a new century of higher education, Torgerson drafted and oversaw two transformative strategic plans. He also oversaw the completion of three major campaigns for scholarships, facilities, and other educational needs by Luther’s Development team: Leadership for a New Century, which raised $63.5 million; the Higher Calling Campaign, which raised $93.3 million; and the Sesquicentennial Fund, which raised $57 million.
The college’s endowment increased by more than $55 million as a result of these financial activities.
In 2007, Torgerson signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment as one of its founding members. The installation of a wind turbine on campus helped him reach one of his strategic planning objectives, which was to eventually become carbon neutral. Additionally, he oversaw the construction of the college’s first solar energy field, which at the time was the biggest in Iowa.
In 2009, Luther was invited to join the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, an organization of the most esteemed liberal arts colleges and universities in the region, thanks to his visionary thinking and meaningful action, which helped Luther become recognized nationally as a leader in sustainability.
The breadth of Torgerson’s contributions to higher education went far beyond the Luther campus. He served on the executive committee of the Lutheran Educational Conference of North America, the academic program working group for the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, the North Central Association’s Higher Learning Commission, the NCAA Division III Presidents Council, the Presidents Council of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and the boa.
The Richard L. and Judith A. Torgerson Center for Nordic Studies was founded at Luther in 2018, five years after the Torgersons moved from Decorah to Edina, Minnesota.
The center celebrates the Torgersons’ influence at the college and the unique efforts they took to reinforce Luther’s priceless ties with Norway with a lead gift from longtime friends O. Jay and Patricia A. Tomson. Torgerson also received the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit in 2013 for his contributions.
While Torgerson will be remembered for leading the teams that transformed Luther’s physical campus, nearly tripled its endowment, established the college as a national leader in sustainability, and strengthened its academic program, Luther said that he will be remembered even more fondly as the vivacious, intense, passionate, and vital man that so many of the college’s staff, faculty, and students counted as a supporter and friend. His legendary handshakes, bear hugs, shoulder claps, and genuine care and attention as a listener were never in short supply.
Torgerson once responded, “I suppose I’d like people to say, ‘He was real, and he provided value.’” Torgerson was asked how he would like to be remembered in Luther’s history books.
The details of the service are still to be decided.