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Augustana College traces its origin to the Swedish universities of Uppsala and Lund, founded in 1477 and 1668 respectively. Graduates of these universities founded Augustana in 1860 in Chicago’s near north side, providing leaders for the new churches being organized by Swedish immigrants and educating the youth of these new communities.
The school was the ﬁrst of many educational and humanitarian institutions established by the former Augustana Lutheran Church. Augustana College and Theological Seminary, as it was ﬁrst known, endured many hardships during its early years. The Civil War nearly depleted the roster of students and faculty. The college and seminary moved from Chicago to Paxton, Illinois, in 1863, and ﬁnally to Rock Island in 1875. The seminary became a separate institution in 1948, and in 1967 returned to the Chicago area, while the college remained in Rock Island.
Augustana has grown from a small school serving Swedish immigrants into a nationally recognized college of the liberal arts and sciences. Students come from most states and many foreign countries, and from a wide variety of social and cultural backgrounds.
The college has always maintained a close relationship with the church — ﬁrst the Augustana Lutheran Church, and, after 1962, the Lutheran Church in America. In 1988 Augustana established ties to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a body of 5.2 million American Lutherans formed in that year. The ELCA gives substantial support to the college and is represented on the Augustana College Board of Trustees.
The name Augustana derives from the origin of the Lutheran Church. The Latin name for the Augsburg Confession, the Reformation document drawn up in 1530, is Confessio Augustana.
Eight presidents have served Augustana since its founding in 1860. Its current president, Steven C. Bahls, was elected in 2003.
See the college's sesquicentennial history for more information.