Augustana College printing logo

Berg ’32, known for aid to community, dies at 102

Father died on the day young Berg graduated, leading him to a life in the ministry

February  21, 2013

William Berg in his yearbook photo.

The Rev. William E. Berg, Augustana  College Class of 1932, died Feb. 11 in Minneapolis at the age of 102 surrounded by three generations of his family.

The author of eight spiritual books, Pastor Berg continued his writing, preaching and extensive personal correspondence up to his last week of life. He maintained his own website, www.bergbooks.com, until last year. "He had a passion for preaching, for people and for evangelism," his daughter, Anne Carlson, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Pastor Berg viewed his four years at Augustana as a special blessing. At the college's commencement ceremony in May 2007, the 97-year-old alumnus had the honor of leading the academic procession. Always the writer, he was inspired to write an essay about his college days after the experience. Here is an excerpt:  

"In the 1930s, we were in the midst of a deep depression in our country. Tuition at the college was $90 per semester. I recall working in the college cafeteria where you could get a full-course meal for 40 cents and an adequate breakfast for 15 cents. Our rooms in a house on the hill, 90 steps down to classrooms, cost $20 per month.  

"In those years we had only the following buildings on campus: the old music conservatory, the men's dormitory, Old Main, the Denkmann Library, the gymnasium, the women's dormitory and the sports stadium on Fifth Avenue. I have visited many college and university campuses in North America, in Scandinavia and other places, but I cannot recall a more beautiful campus than Augustana College!  

"However, the memories of buildings fade as I think of my professors and teachers inspiring and challenging me. There were just six of us in Professor I.M. Anderson's Greek class. I came out of that three-year course not only with some knowledge of the Greek language, but with wisdom, not least divine wisdom."  

The day Berg graduated from Augustana College with a degree in theater and speech, his father, a pastor, died unexpectedly. Berg took over his father's parishes for a year and then graduated from Augustana Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree and was ordained into the Lutheran ministry. In 1937, he became pastor of First Lutheran Church in Rock Island.  

From 1951 to 1965, he was the director of evangelism for the Augustana Synod of the Lutheran Church headquartered in Minneapolis and also was on the national evangelism staff for the Lutheran Church in America in New York City. He served as pastor of Augustana Lutheran Church in Minneapolis from 1965 to 1980, and worked hard to meet the spiritual and physical needs of children and families in the community.  

After leaving Augustana Lutheran, Pastor Berg continued to be active in the United Christian Ashram, founded by E. Stanley Jones. He was the spiritual leader of the Minnesota Christian Ashram for more than 25 years.

• Read Pastor Berg's obituary in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune

The Rev. William Berg'32, far right, led the academic procession at Augustana College Commencement in 2007.