Lack Family Selected as 2019 Distinguished Midland Family

Lack Family Selected as 2019 Distinguished Midland Family

Monday, October 7, 2019

Rev. Arnold Lack had a big impact on Midland University. Little did he know, the school would leave an even bigger impact on his family. 

The Lack family came to Fremont in the late 1970s when Arnold took a job as vice president of advancement at then-Midland Lutheran College. Even after he moved on from his post nearly a decade later, the family connection to the university was still going strong.

The Lacks are being recognized for their dedication to Midland and have been named this year’s Distinguished Midland Family. “I think my dad had a big impact on Midland and Midland has had a huge impact on our family,” Janet Lack says. Janet, who graduated from Midland in 1983, has held a number of roles at the university. She’s currently the coordinator of the academic resource center.

Arnold and Carolyn Lack left Hancock, Michigan, for Fremont — with two of their four children in tow — in the summer of 1978. “That started our family’s history with Midland,” Janet says.

Arnold liked the idea of a new challenge. He was always looking for “another adventure, another story to tell,” his daughter says. The Lutheran church was always at the foundation of his work.

Arnold, known for thinking up many ideas, was always looking for ways to improve. He helped to raise funds and research the purchase of the first personal computer on campus. It was needed to help write reports for accreditation purposes, Janet says. Arnold also helped to introduce Lutherfest to the campus so alums from Luther College had a place to celebrate their heritage. Another notable achievement was a signature fundraising project that allowed construction of the Anderson Complex and expansion of the endowment fund. 

He also helped to fundraise for an addition to the library. During construction, Arnold and family helped to organize a chain of volunteers to remove books from the space. “There was that sense of community and family,” Janet says. “Everybody would pitch in to help.”

But when you hired Arnold, you also got the support of Carolyn. “She’s part of the team,” Janet says. “The two were inextricably linked.” Carolyn was “all hands on deck” to help put out the Advancement Office’s quarterly publication, Observations. When she and the other women weren’t working on that, they often helped to host receptions and banquet dinners. 

Carolyn introduced the Midland community to one of the Lack family’s Christmas traditions — Santa Lucia. Carolyn, wearing an authentic Swedish dress and wreath of real candles, shared cookies and candies with everyone in the Advancement Office. Later, Janet and her brother Jonathan would share the tradition with their classmates. Janet has kept it up and celebrates every year.

Arnold left the university in the late-1980s for a job with Lutheran Family Services in Illinois. He and Carolyn later retired in Illinois. “I don’t think there was any idea that we would develop so many literal family connections (to Midland),” Janet says.

Janet graduated from Midland in 1983 with the centennial class. For the past 35 years, she’s served many roles at the university, including activity director, assistant dean, assistant softball coach and adviser. Jonathan earned a business degree from Midland in 1987. While attending Midland, he met his wife Janice Wickert. They “caught each other’s eye” in the dining hall when Janice was doing her work study job. It came full circle during their wedding dinner, held in the same dining hall. Jeffrey Wiitanen, the son of Arnold and Carolyn’s daughter Nancy, graduated from Midland in 2004 with a degree in accounting. He met his wife, Gina Dowis, at the University. Sara Whaley, the daughter of Arnold and Carolyn’s daughter Sandra, attended Midland for the journalism program until it was discontinued. But she credits her time there for preparing her for a career in journalism.

Janet, who says she’s rarely short of words, was speechless to learn her family would be recognized by the university. “It was very special for my family because Midland has been a big part of our life and our family history,” she says.