Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Renovation complete on Luther Sem’s Olson Campus Center

Normally, if you overhear a conversation about “building the Kingdom” in the hallways at Luther Seminary, people are doing biblical research or having a theological conversation. For the last few months, however, the rat-tat-tat in the background has more to do with renovation. And, on October 15, it meant a Re-Dedication Ceremony for the Olson Campus Center and its Charles and Sharon Olson Commons and Café.

Charles and Sharon Olson provided lead money on Luther Seminary’s renovation of its Olson Campus Center. The new center was re-dedicated on October 15. Metro Lutheran photo: Bob Hulteen

“Without the seminary, we might not have a church.”

“We first started hearing about this project a few years ago,” explained Sharon Olson. “And we were immediately excited to think of renovating space that would allow for a deeper sense of community on campus.”

“There is no cause as important as sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world,” Charles Olson told Metro Lutheran. “I am honored that we are in a position to facilitate this mission through the training of church leaders at Luther.

“Luther Seminary has been such a big part of the ELCA. Without the seminary, we might not have a church,” Charles opined. “It has impact in spreading the gospel.”

The Olsons were the lead philanthropists on this project. “The renovation itself was about $2 million,” explained Tom Jolivette, vice president for seminary relations. “While we were renovating, we also took the opportunity to do some upgrading, making the entire project closer to $3 million.”

A commons that forms a community

Campus visitors will immediately experience the “new feel” of the Olson Center. “The campus has not had a space like this before,” explained Traci Lesneski, principal in charge of the Olson Project for MS&R, a Minneapolis architecture and design firm. “The space between [classrooms] is just as important as the places of official learning.” The center was designed to have intentional places for informal conversation, “much like a kitchen table becomes a space for people to hang around,” said Lesneski.

The intent seems to be working. First-year Luther student John Guthridge said, “I hope it will become a natural gathering place for students who don’t live right on campus, and I already think it is.” Guthridge is aware that sometimes married and older students don’t have a place on campus to easily connect.

Hearing Guthridge’s comment, Sharon Olson said, “That’s what we envisioned when we first heard about this project a couple years ago. We want it to feel like someone’s living room; we want it to be hospitable.”

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