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Luther College president candidate withdraws name

The Presidential Search Committee, appointed by the Luther College Board of Regents, ran into a snag in the presidential search process when one of the final two candidates withdrew his name in response to concerns raised by faculty and students. Dr. Mark Hagerott appeared to be the top contender to replace Richard Torgerson when he announced his withdrawal.

Hagerott currently serves as military professor and senior military officer of history at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Hagerott is a member of a Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod congregation, and Luther is one of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s 26 colleges.

The college Regents had chosen to put forward only one name — Hagerott’s — but asked the search committee to complete the interview process. It was during this interim that Hagerott chose to no longer be considered, after hearing of some concerns about his candidacy.

Student Noah Lange wrote in an opinion article on the Luther College Chips, the college newspaper, website: “I’m uncomfortable with Luther having a president who is not allowed, by the strictures of his religion, to commune with the students and faculty. Who identifies with a religious tradition that refuses to ordain women, and believes that men should always be in positions of authority over women.”

In a letter explaining his decision to withdraw his name from future consideration, Hagerott wrote: “Luther is an appealing place, and I was immediately taken with what I saw and heard of it. … But, as the presidential search matured, I realized a fundamental issue for Luther dating from 2009 had now emerged and became the only theme to be debated in the open press and one I did not anticipate:  a narrowing lens of theological affiliation.
“This is why I am concerned for Luther going forward.  Was the debate in the press representative of the majority of Luther faculty, alumni, and students, or the voice of a small vocal minority? Is the experience of the past week the sign of things to come, the beginning of a narrow litmus test for future faculty, staff, for even Regents? Might future Regents or staff be required to show decades of church affiliations which will be reviewed for the correctness of their theological stance on certain issues? “
At press time, the Board of Regents was considering its options moving forward. Rob Larson, vice president of communications and marketing, assured interested parties that “Luther is healthy and strong, so this turn of events, while unexpected and very inconvenient, does not pose any real threat.”

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