Archived Sections, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Youth & Family Institute director won't continue

Dick Hardel and Augsburg College President William Frame are at loggerheads.

The head of Augsburg College, an ELCA school near downtown Minneapolis, and the director of a thriving youth and family ministry located on its campus, are at loggerheads.
Augsburg’s president, Dr. William Frame, believes the Youth and Family Institute, founded by Augsburg alumnus Merton Strommen, and housed in one of the school’s residential halls, belongs to the college.
Dr. Dick Hardel, since 1994 the Executive Director of the Institute, believes the ministry is in partnership with the college, but should have the freedom to set its own policy and direction.
For the last half-year, Frame and Hardel have been in a contest to see which view will prevail. Neither has been willing to back down.
In early November, Hardel turned in his resignation. He announced he would serve through the end of the year, then leave the Institute. In a statement dated November 8, and updated three days later, he said he took the step because of “a fundamental disagreement with [President] Frame concerning the relationship between Augsburg College and the Institute.”
Hardel suggested that “the cross of Jesus Christ is not central to the management and operation of [Augsburg],” concluding, therefore, that “the Institute does not belong here.”
In a statement released by his office, President Frame argued that the Youth and Family Institute was a critical asset of Augsburg’s tradition and mission. Said Frame, “It was founded here, and we intend to do whatever we can to advance its ministry.”
Hardel said allowing the Institute to stay at Augsburg “will kill it.”
The Youth and Family Institute of Augsburg College was created by Strommen to memorialize one of his sons, a seminary student who was killed by lightning while leading a youth group on a Colorado outing. In an interview with Metro Lutheran, published in 2001, Strommen said that the Institute “never really took off until Dick Hardel became the Director.”
A high-energy advocate for, and promoter of, the Institute, Hardel built the organization through a series of workshops, seminars, conferences, and tours. An ambitious publishing ministry has also grown under his leadership. Metro Lutheran has published columns under his byline for several years.
Frame and Hardel met three times with Minneapolis Area Synod Bishop Craig Johnson, trying to resolve the issue, but to no avail.
Hardel plans to head up a new institute, no longer associated with the college. No timeline has been announced. The future of the Institute at Augsburg remains unclear.