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Tour set at the Perpich Center

Golden Valley Lutheran College alums invited to a blast from the past

College campuses often hold a special pull for alumni. Graduates relish a return trip to their alma mater and the opportunity to revisit the place where collegiate memories were formed.

This pleasure cannot be experienced by graduates of the Lutheran Bible Institute (LBI), later renamed the Golden Valley Lutheran College (GVLC). The two-year private liberal arts college closed in 1985; declining enrollment was blamed for the shutdown.

The state later purchased the property. For two decades, the campus has been home to the Perpich Center for Arts Education (PCAE), the state agency that includes the state’s residential arts high school for juniors and seniors.

Alumna Mary Wickstrom stands at a bus stop on Highway 55 in front of Golden Valley Lutheran College in the mid-1970s. Photos provided by Perpich Center for Arts Education

In connection with the 125th anniversary of the city of Golden Valley, the Perpich Center will offer a campus tour on May 14 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Tour organizers hope to welcome college alumni and former staff.

Mary Wickstrom, 53, of Deephaven, Minnesota, attended GVLC from 1975 to 1977. Her current work as a promotional merchandise specialist recently brought her to the Perpich Center, and the visit rekindled many fond memories.

“I am so glad it wasn’t bulldozed. It’s really nice it’s a place where education still happens,” she said.

Wickstrom arrived on campus fresh out of Cambridge High School. “They seemed genuinely interested in me. I liked that,” she said. “Coming from a small town, the size was ideal. It was a fun chapter in my life. I got a great education, and made lifelong friends.”

The familiarity of a campus

Tour attendees will stroll the 30-acre campus and see how the grounds and buildings have changed. For example, the area where the college chapel stood is now an art gallery. A former dorm is now houses the center’s Professional Development and Research unit, which does outreach work with teachers. Another dormitory continues to house current students, who come to the Arts High School from all over Minnesota.

GVLC was known for a strong music program and winning athletic teams. The choir toured extensively, and the basketball squad had a notable winning streak in the late ’70s under the leadership of Coach Flip Saunders, who went on to coach the Minnesota Timberwolves. The gymnasium that was the home court for those Royal victories is now the dance studio for the Arts High School.

Jonathan Granlund, a board member of the Perpich Foundation, will be part of the May 14 festivities. Four generations of his family have a connection to the campus.

His grandfather, the Rev. Clarence Oskar Granlund, was a Lutheran pastor who was involved in the purchase of the Golden Valley property for LBI. His father was famed sculptor Paul Granlund, who was the artist-in-residence at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter for many years.

In what was formerly the chapel of Golden Valley Lutheran College, students at Perpich Center for Arts Education show their work to college representatives on Portfolio Day.

“Dad was one of the first artists invited to lead a Common Experience at the Arts High School,” Jonathan Granlund said, referring to the program that brought working artists into the school. “He always loved the opportunity to teach.”

Granlund’s eldest daughter graduated from the Arts High School in 2003 and his younger daughter has applied to attend next year as a high school junior.

“I am very proud of my family’s connection to the educational legacy here,” said Granlund.

Coming home again

Former student Lloyd Klefstad, 58, of Prior Lake, Minnesota, arrived at GVLC from tiny Greenbush, Minnesota.

“Some people called it the Lutheran Bridal Institute, because so many girls found husbands here,” he remembered. “It was a college where everybody knew everybody. That was a good thing and a bad thing. We couldn’t get away with much, but it kept us on the straight and narrow.”

Klefstad’s sister is a visual arts instructor at the school, so he too has been back to campus. He urges fellow former students to sign up for the May tour.

“I know people will find it interesting to see how the place has changed. I saw students studying around the pond in the middle of campus, and it really took me back.”

The tour is free, but reservations are requested. To reserve, call Perpich Center librarian Jeanne Iverson at 763/591-4741. PCAE is at the intersections of Highways 55 and 100; 6125 Olson Memorial Highway.

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