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August Weenaas

Professor of theology, Norwegian, and Latin, 1868-1870

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

August Weenaas was born in 1835 in Norway. He studied in Oslo and was an ordained minister of the Church of Norway. He served as a parish priest in Norway for several years, and in 1867 the Augustana Synod called Weenaas to teach at Augustana College and Theological Seminary.

The Synod paid Weenaas' tuition for a preparatory term of study at German universities so that he could acquaint himself with the work of German theologians. Weenaas arrived in Paxton, Illinois, in the summer of 1868 and began teaching theology courses in Latin and Norwegian. He earned $1,000 a year and was provided with housing for his family.

Though Weenaas was well-versed in theological matters, he disagreed with the liberal arts style of general education he found at Augustana. Weenaas thought that courses not pertaining to Seminary studies should not be required for students.

Weenas was unhappy with what he saw as the Swedish domination of both the Augustana Synod and Augustana College. He felt that Norwegians needed most support from the Synod than the Swedish immigrants because they had a harder time adjusting to life in America. In 1869, the Norwegian members of the Augustana Synod were granted permission to form their own Norwegian Synod and college. Weenaas and the other Norwegian faculty left Augustana in 1870. One group of Norwegians kept the same name and constitution as the Augustana Synod; however, another group, under the leadership of Weenaas, formed "The Conference for the Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America." Weenaas's group founded Augsburg College and Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, and the other group of Norwegians founded Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The two groups formed a united body in 1890.

Weenaas became the first president of Augsburg College, a post he held until 1876. In 1876 Weenas returned to Norway, where he lived until 1882. He then returned to Minnesota, where he spent three years teaching at Red Wing Seminary; Weenaas then returned to Norway.