Erno Dahl, Carthage College’s fourth-longest serving president, who died earlier this week, is being remembered as a kind man dedicated to the college and church.
Dahl, 90, who died Tuesday in San Antonio where he lived with his wife, Suzanne, served as president from 1977 to 1986.
The endowment doubled during his presidency. Beyond the campus boundaries, he served as president of the Council of Lutheran Church in America Colleges and vice president of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
In a 1977 interview, he insisted that “small colleges like Carthage have much to offer simply because they are ‘small’.”
“Forty years ago, Erno Dahl deeply understood the enduring value of a Carthage education and communicated that value tirelessly,” said President John Swallow. “The higher ed landscape has certainly changed in the ensuing years, but his contributions should remind us that our roots remain a major source of the college’s distinctiveness.”
After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, Dahl earned undergraduate degrees from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. He later added a doctorate in British religious thought from the University of Durham in England.
From 1957 to 1968, Dahl was on the faculty of Texas Lutheran College, becoming dean of the college in 1964.
In 1968, he moved to Wittenberg University in Ohio, where he served as vice president for academic affairs until accepting the top position at Carthage.
“I remember him as a kind and gentle man, fully engaged in all aspects of the institution,” said professor Kurt Piepenburg, chairman of the geospatial science department, who graduated from Carthage in 1977 and joined the faculty in 1984. “He was simultaneously reflective and inspirational, and Carthage is a better place because of his leadership.”
Ordained by the American Lutheran Church in 1960, Dahl served as an interim pastor of Lutheran congregations in Texas after leaving Carthage. He also volunteered for church-related social service organizations.
The college awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2009. Five scholarships are presented annually in his name to incoming students through the Presidential Scholarship program.
Besides his wife, Dahl’s surviving family members include two sons, Jeremy and Jeffrey; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service in San Antonio will be held in April. Flags on the Carthage campus will fly at half-staff for the week in honor of his memory.