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Nils Forsander

Professor of theology, 1889-1915

Nils Forsander
Nils Forsander

(This series of Notable Faculty profiles was written in celebration Augustana's sesquicentennial in 2009.)

Nils Forsander was born in Gladsax, Skåne, Sweden, on Sept. 11, 1846. He studied at a public college in Lund and then continued his studies at a private college in the same city.

During the summer of 1870, Forsander met T. N. Hasselquist, president of Augustana College, in Sweden. The next fall, Forsander accompanied Hasselquist to Paxton, Ill.,  where he completed the theological course required for entering the ministry of the Augustana Synod. During the illness of Professor A. J. Lindström, Forsander taught his Greek and Latin classes.

Forsander was ordained in 1873, and worked in many different congregations including Aledo, Sagetown, and Raritan, Ill., from 1873-1875, Kossuth, Iowa from 1875-1880, and the Bethesda Church in Page County, Iowa, from 1880-1890. Between the years 1887 and 1890, Forsander worked as the secretary of the Illinois and Iowa conferences of the Augustana Synod. Forsander married Johanna Charlotta Ahlgren of Burlington, Iowa, on Jan. 6, 1875.

In 1889, Forsander was called to Augustana College and Theological Seminary as a theology professor. He taught courses in church history, symbolics, isagogics (literary history of the Bible), homiletics (preparing and delivering sermons), pastoral theology, and apologetics (defense and proofs of Christianity).

In 1894, Forsander was awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity by the board of trustees of Augustana College. In 1907, King Oscar II of Sweden awarded him the Order of the North Star. He was so well liked by his students that for his 60th birthday, they gave him a bust of Olaus Petri by the artist Jean Le Veau.

Forsander left Augustana in 1915. During his time at Augustana, he was a devoted teacher, editor, and author. He also invested a great deal of money in the school by setting up and contributing to scholarship funds.

Forsander was very active as a writer. He began writing as a young man by translating hymns from German to Swedish. He wrote in both English and Swedish, and wrote many theological texts. Forsander was a diligent reader and accumulated a large library focusing on theological literature. He edited and contributed to the journals Augustana, Luthersk Qvartalskrift, Ungdomsvännen, Korsbaneret, The Lutheran, The Lutheran Church Review, The Independent, and Hemvånnen, as well as many other periodicals. He was also an editor for a Swedish-English theological quarterly Tidskrift för teologi och kyrklig a frågor. Forsander wrote a historical sketch of the Augustana Synod, as well an encyclopedia of the Lutheran Church in Sweden. He translated many works from German and wrote a commentary on the unaltered Augsburg Confession, the founding document of Lutheranism, which was published in two editions.