The Papers of David Theodore Nelson, 1722-1969
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Brief Description: Documentation consists of correspondence, 1914-1969; diaries; photographs; translation of Elisabeth Koren diary; materials on Hegge family (Ole Olsen Hegge) and family of Nils Hestetun, 1700’s-1800’s; materials on “Sognalag of America;” Nelson’s personal papers (including reference to or information on Andersen, Klocher, Even Fredriksen); certificates; awards; receipt book; will; biographical files; war ration cards, 1940’s; newspaper clippings; invitations; Luther College teaching files (Debate, Forensics); Luther College Chips poetry, 1884-1935; public speeches, 1925-1969; acting president files; committee papers, records; ‘Service to the College’ materials; Iowa Colleges Conference papers; Norwegian-American Historical Association papers; music; Oslo Summer School, 1947-1960; civic service files (Republican party, peace conference); church paper; scrapbook; articles.
Held at:
Luther College Archives
700 College Drive
Decorah, IA 52101
Phone: 563-387-1805
Email: archives [at]
Record Series Number: LCA/RG15/Nelson, D
Created by: Nelson, David Theodore (1891-1969)
Volume: 14.3 Linear Feet
Biographical Note for Nelson, David Theodore (1891-1969) :

David Theodore Nelson, a member of the Luther College class of 1912, is probably best remembered for his book, Luther College 1861-1961, published during Luther’s centennial year.  Before this, Nelson was a Rhodes Scholar.  He went to Oxford in 1914 and went on to receive a B.A. degree there.  From 1914-1915, he served in Herbert Hoover’s Commission for Relief in Belgium during World War I.  Following this, Nelson served in the American Ambulance Service in France from 1915-1916.  In 1922, he came to teach English at Luther College.  He remained at Luther until 1963.  In 1924 he married Esther Torrison.  While at Luther, he emphasized the importance of long-range planning for the college.  In general, Nelson thought student rules should be liberalized, although politically he was a conservative and became involved with the Republican Party.  He made the motion to allow dancing at Luther, was involved in the decision to permit coeducation, and, along with Oivind Hovde, helped establish the senior paper requirement for graduation.  He was the tennis coach at Luther from 1922-1933.  He also established the Luther College Forensic Association, and was very involved with debate for several years.  On August 1, 1962, Nelson was named acting president between the terms of Ylvisaker and Farwell, a position he served for just under a year.  While president, it was decided that the new field house would be built “down the bluff,” rather than on the upper campus.  The decision was controversial, but Nelson was a strong advocate of the location.  Nelson translated the Diary of Elisabeth Koren, and collaborated efforts with Inga Norstog to translate Peer Stromme’s Halvor into English. Upon retirement he continued to live in Decorah. He was born in 1891 and died October. 9, 1969. This collection contains much of his peronal correspondence and other documents related to Luther College.


David Theodore Nelson var student på Luther College til 1912, og er sannsynligvis best kjent for sin bok, Luther College 1861-1961, som ble utgitt i 1961 i anledning Luthers hundreårs jubileum. Nelson hadde vært Rhodes Scholar. Han begynte som student på Oxford i 1914 og tok til slutt bachelor graden derfra. Under første verdenskrig, fra 1914 til 1915, tjenestegjorde han i Herbert Hoover’s Commission for Relief i Belgia. Deretter arbeidet Nelson i den amerikanske ambulansetjenesten i Franskrike fra 1915 til 1916. I 1922 kom han til Luther College og underviste i engelsk. Han ble ved Luther til 1963. I 1924 giftet han seg med Esther Torrison. På Luther vektla han hvor viktig langsiktig planlegging var for colleget. Generelt syns Nelson at studentreglene burde liberaliseres, selv om han var politisk konservativ og var engasjert i det republikanske parti et. Han gjorde dans lovlig på Luther, var involvert i diskusjonen om å innføre felles under visning for gutter og jenter, og sammen med Oivind Hovde hjelp han til med å innføre kravet om senior paper for å kunne oppnå bachelorgraden. Han var tennistrener ved Luther fra 1922 til 1933. Han etablerte også Luther College Forensic Association. 1. august 1962 ble Nelson fungerende president i perioden mellom Ylvisaker og Farwell, men var ikke president i mer en ett år. Mens han var president ble det bestemt at det nye idrettsbygget skulle bygges nede i dalen i stedet for på øvre del av skoleområdet. Avgjør el sen var kontroversiell, men Nelson var en sterk forkjemper for plasseringen. Nelson oversatte Elisa beth Korens dagbok, og samarbeidet med Inga Norstog for å oversette Peer Stromme’s Halvor til engelsk.

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PreferredCitation: Cite unpublished materials: David Theodore Nelson Papers, RG15 Manuscripts, Luther College Archives, Decorah, Iowa
Finding Aid Revisions:

Updated 6/5/2018 by Hayley Jackson to include arrangement of the European postcards in Box 38.

11/22/19: EC updated the preferred citation.