Spring Commencement 2013
The 2013 Commencement program and additional information will be posted here when it becomes available. This event will be webcast live.
Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient and Commencement Speaker
Dr. Peter Harstad will receive the 2013 Bethany Lutheran College Distinguished Alumnus Award at the Spring Commencement Ceremony and he will deliver the Commencement Address to the Class of 2013.
The third of ten children, Harstad was born on November 13, 1935, to the Reverend Adolph and Martha (Tjernagel) Harstad.
Harstad is an accomplished historian with several books and publications to his credit, has taught at the college level, and directed two State Historical Societies.
Harstad attended both Bethany Lutheran High School and Junior College and credits the institution for helping to shape him both spiritually and intellectually.
After earning his high school diploma and associate in arts degree from Bethany, Harstad attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in education with emphases in English and history as well as M.A. and Ph.D. degrees.
Upon earning his terminal degree, Harstad taught American history at Idaho State University where he was a faculty member from 1963 to 1972.
Harstad also served for a year as visiting professor of history at the University of Iowa, which eventually led to a post as the Director of the State Historical Society of Iowa. He served in that position from 1972 to 1981.
Harstad also was awarded a Ford Foundation-financed post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Kentucky. His work included examining, organizing, and publishing historical documents of former Secretary of State Henry Clay.
Harstad returned to Bethany in the early 1980s, serving as development officer and history professor. During a three-year tenure at Bethany, he helped to establish the Dr. S.C. Ylvisaker Scholarship Fund, which is still providing scholarships for students today.
In 1984, Harstad was hired as the CEO of the Indiana Historical Society, an endowed not-for-profit corporation. In this position he was able to focus solely on history programs. The last challenge of his career involved the construction and financing of a $40 million Indiana History Center near the State Capitol in Indianapolis. He retired in 2001.
Harstad continues to conduct research and has written two books since “retiring.” Store Per and We Saw the Elephant are both focused on mid-19th century American history. He is currently working on two projects: a biography of Thomas R. Marshall (Woodrow Wilson’s Vice President) and a book about the young Abraham Lincoln and how his reading and self-education influenced his life.
Harstad met his wife of 56 years, Carolyn (Schneider), at Bethany and they have been blessed with five children and ten grandchildren. They currently reside in Lakeville, Minnesota, and are active members of Heritage Lutheran Church in nearby Apple Valley.