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Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary has been blessed with faithful leaders and professors. Milton Otto (1914–1982) followed Norman Madson as dean of the seminary. In 1957, he joined the seminary staff and was named dean of the seminary in 1968. He had been the pastor of the Saude–Jerico parish in northeastern Iowa and had served as president of the synod. He was the first clergyman of German extraction ever to be elected president of the once predominantly Norwegian church body. The core classes of the curriculum were taught by Otto. He is remembered for his pastoral care and evangelical heart.
The 1974 convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod resolved that the seminary presidency be separated from the college presidency. Until this time, the college presidents, S. C. Ylvisaker and B. W. Teigen, were the presidents of the seminary. Because of size and various responsibilities, it was natural that their concerns centered mainly on the college. Theodore A. Aaberg (1925–1980) was called as the first full-time president of the seminary in 1976. He had distinguished himself as a parish pastor and a theologian in the synod. Now the seminary had its own leader who could better advocate for its needs. At this time, the Regents created the office of dean of students, to which position Professor Juul Madson, a member of the staff since 1970, was appointed. New Testament and Greek were Madson’s area of expertise. During much of this period, Professor Rudolph Honsey taught the Old Testament classes for the seminary. President Aaberg tendered his resignation because of ill health in August 1979 and passed away in January 1980. Professor Glenn Reichwald (1927–1995) served as acting president for the 1979–1980 school year.
Until 1978, the seminary had no permanent home; it was provided quarters by the college. The 1976 convention adopted a recommendation from the Board of Regents to authorize a special thank offering known as “Gratitude for Grace” for the purpose of higher education. It set a goal of $600,000, two-fifths of which was to be allocated to the seminary. Pledges quickly exceeded that goal and at the next convention, groundbreaking occurred for the seminary building just across the street from the college at 447 North Division Street (the present Milton Tweit Hall).
With the encouragement of Aaberg and others, the first seminary building was built and dedicated on Synod Sunday, June 18, 1978. The building was a sturdy, one-story brick and stone structure containing two classrooms, a library, five offices, and additional work and storage space.
The erection of its own separate building together with the acquisition of its own institutional president provided the seminary with a far greater sense of identity. Its students were able to live and learn in facilities under better conditions, suited for their needs and more favorable to the purpose of the institution.
The Lord has blessed the seminary with faithful leaders and fine facilities. Our synod and seminary have remained true to the infallible Word and the Lutheran Confessions. Our congregations have received faithful pastors who proclaim the life-giving Word for the salvation of souls and properly administer the blessed Sacraments. The seminary faculty, staff, students, and graduates want to express special thanks to the synod for the thank offerings that enable the seminary to grow and for your ongoing support. A seventy-fifth anniversary fund has been established, and we encourage everyone to consider a gift to this fund.