Midland History Photo Gallery

Midland History Photo Gallery

Throughout Midland’s proud history, many changes have taken place. Whether you are connected to Midland from the past or present, one thing remains the same: the heart of a Warrior is present in all who call Midland their own!

Midland College

Midland was founded in 1887 in Atchison, Kansas by the board of education of the general Synod, the largest and oldest Lutheran body in America. The name Midland College was selected because of the college’s location midway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

As a result of inadequate facilities due to dwindling community support, the Midland board recommended moving the college to “a more favorable locality” and began looking for a new home after spending its first 30 years in Kansas.

  Fremont College, a teacher’s college in Fremont, Nebraska was for sale at the time. Established in 1884, Fremont College had fallen on hard financial times following the ill health of its president, William Clemmons. Not only did Nebraska offer an excellent opportunity with the former Fremont College campus, but it also offered a much larger Lutheran base, as well as a commercial club in a town eager to keep a college in the community. Thus the decision was made to relocate the college to Fremont, Nebraska and it was stated that “Midland is Midland, wherever it may be.”

In 1919, Midland College and Western Theological Seminary uprooted and headed north, moving 19,000 library books, 11 faculty families, and 39 students from Atchison, Kansas to Fremont. Midland’s relocation was eased not only by the reputation that President William Clemmons had built for the former Fremont College but also by the rapport he had with the Fremont Community.


Buildings on the Midland College campus in Fremont included a three-story administration building, an unfinished brick science hall (later named Clemmons Hall), and two dorms, East and West Hall. In 1921, when the Western Theological Seminary moved to Nye Avenue, the second-floor assembly hall of Clemmons Hall became the college chapel.

What Midland College’s campus was lacking was a gym. More than half of the front page of the March 9th, 1920 front page of the “Midland” was dedicated to the students’ desire for a gym, with students promising to continue their “cry” until they got it.


Midland’s Board of Trustees agreed and in 1924 Midland College finalized completion of a Gymnasium-Commons. The campus dining hall was on the ground floor with a playing court, bleachers, and stage upstairs. We now know this building as the Olson Student Center.


Around that same time, Beegle Hall was under construction and the dormitory was later completed in 1927, with West Hall being subsequently torn down. East Hall became the men’s dorm, but by 1934 the south end had blown in and the building had to be razed. For the next decade, male students had to board in Fremont homes.


On October 28, 1938, The Victory Bell was built by college custodians and presented to the campus community at Homecoming. The Bell Tower, as it was then known, was originally used to signal the end of classes, but later became known as the Victory Bell after it became a tradition to ring it after athletic victories.


Notable faculty during this early era included Oscar Lyders, who in the fall of 1928 created a “new” type of chorus that could sing eight-part music unaccompanied. In spring 1929, the A Capella Choir went on its first tour, traveling 2,200 miles and earning rave reviews.

This notable alum was a houseboy and Woolworth’s stock boy during his years on campus, graduating in 1937. Do you recognize him? Clifton Hillegas was the founder and publisher of CliffsNotes, the iconic yellow and black study guides that have assisted so many students. To date, Clif Hillegas ’37 is one of Midland’s most notable alumni, as is Paul Norris, the creator of the Aquaman comic. Although Paul only attended Midland for a few years before being offered a job, his extraordinary talent illustrated Warrior yearbooks in the ’30s.

Athletics has been a part of Midland’s history since its founding. One of its most recognized athletic squads was the 1941 Warrior football team. Head Coach William “Speck” Nelson led Midland to its first undefeated football season. The team gained a national reputation as “Little Giants” for their small stature but amazing athletic prowess. The college celebrated the championship by calling off classes for a day and holding a victory banquet.


During the years of U.S. involvement in World War II, Midland’s servicemen and women numbered 600. As a tribute, the Maritime Commission launched the SS Midland Victory in the Pacific on June 12, 1945. The 455-foot cargo ship carried a historical plaque and framed aerial view of Midland’s campus.


The year 1945 was one of the prominent milestones of the twentieth century and marked the end of the Second World War. New opportunities and challenges arose at Midland in the post-war years. The most obvious effect of the war’s end was the influx of veterans to the student body with the passing of the G.I. Bill. The need for a new men’s dormitory was never so pressing, so the college moved forward with plans to build a new men’s dormitory--Men’s Memorial Hall.

Men returning in the fall or arriving as new students found Men’s Memorial Hall ready for occupancy, and the building was formally dedicated with the help of an honor guard in 1947. The names of the twenty-three “gold star” Midland men who were killed in the war were announced at the dedication and were enshrined on a plaque inside the front door of Men’s Memorial Hall. The names of these “gold star” men are preserved to this day, as the plaque now hangs in a place of honor in the new Miller Hall.

Campus social life in the late ’40s and early ’50s was reinvigorated as the student population grew and wartime cares were left in the past. Frolics, formals, and other festivities were commonplace, as were campus pranks and mild hazing, including the enforcement of mandatory beanie headwear for freshmen.


The fun and festivities were tempered though with some strict rules set forth by the administration, including mandatory daily chapel, dress codes for the classroom and mealtime, nightly curfews, and failure or even expulsion for unexcused absences from class.


To ensure that students stayed in good academic standing, study times were set aside for students. The addition of a new library in 1954 created much-needed study space. On the day the library was ready for occupancy, some 260 students and 40 faculty members transferred approximately 25,000 books from the old library in the Administration building to the new library. The extent of student participation was estimated at 98%, and the level of enthusiasm high.

By the late 1950s growing enrollments had created a need for more buildings, both residence halls, and classrooms. Beegle Hall got East and West wings, and Augustine Hall was built, creating more residence hall space as well as space for a new dining hall. The lower level of the Gymnasium-Commons was converted into the student union.  Fremont Hall was completed soon after, offering up two floors of modern classrooms.

The late 1950s and early ’60s saw a significant transformation of Lutheranisim in America. Synods merged and the question eventually arose whether the new Nebraska Synod could support two Lutheran colleges a mere 20 miles apart. Thus began a long and often times gut-wrenching debate about the fate of Luther College in Wahoo and whether to bring Midland College and Luther College together as one institution.

Ultimately, it was decided to consolidate the two schools and move them to the Fremont location under one name: Midland Lutheran College. The first classes of the consolidated institution began in Fremont in fall 1962. In tribute to the former institution, the library was renamed the “Luther Library” and Luther campus markers such as the sundial and the college arch were eventually relocated from the Wahoo campus to the campus green space in front of the library. In tribute to the legacy of Luther College, Midland hosts an alumni gathering of Luther students every other year during Lutherfest, a celebration featuring class reunions and other events for Luther alumni and friends.

Another Luther tribute included the addition of a pipe organ to enhance worship services. Built by Robert Vaughan, the organ, used for daily chapel, included pipes from the Luther College organ.


The influx of students increased the need for additional classroom space and in 1965, construction was completed on Swanson Science Hall. Laboratories and classrooms were provided for geology, geography, physics, biology, and chemistry, with special attention given to astronomy with the provision of a planetarium, later dedicated to honor professor Dr. Gilbert Lueninghoener’s contributions to the field. Soon after, in 1966 and 1967, two new residence halls, Gunderson Hall and Benton Centennial Hall, were completed. Benton was the first women’s honor dorm on campus, with extended hours, no housemother, and each resident having her own front door key!

The beginning of the final building project for the decade of the ’60s occurred in 1968 with land being cleared for the new Frank H. Hopkins Physical Education Building. The arena would feature two gymnasiums, a weight room, a racquetball court, and a swimming pool, and for the time was one of the largest athletic facilities in the state.

By 1968, the times were changing and helping lead that change was president Dale Lund--who appreciated that college youth had a voice and had an interest in hearing what they had to say. Recognizing the need for more autonomy and student freedom, Lund’s administration lifted restrictions and made changes to the academic curriculum, making it more vibrant and purposeful. This included innovative interterm courses that sometimes featured independent study or travel.

One of the groups that traveled over interterm was the Clef Dwellers, a costumed and choreographed swing group created by endeared choir director Gene Nelson. Throughout the late ’60s and early ’70s, the group took four USO tours and performed at military bases around the world, including in the Caribbean, Germany, Iceland, and the South Pacific.

One of the biggest advantages of the Midland student was that he or she could participate in a multitude of activities during his or her time on campus, whether it be choir or Clef, athletics, yearbook, Greek Life and/or Student Senate, all while pursuing their degree.

One of those degrees was Nursing, which became a new addition to the academic curriculum after Midland took over Immanuel Medical Center’s nursing hospital diploma program and hired its director, Kathleen Cheney, to create a four-year baccalaureate degree in nursing at Midland in 1973.


Due to the increased enrollment that adding a nursing major allocated, it was decided that Augustine Hall could become a “split-level dorm” with men on one floor and women on another, making it Midland’s first co-ed dorm, which was quite notable for Midland at the time.


The early 1980s marked Carl Hansen’s introduction to the Midland presidency and he “hit the ground running” diving into planning and celebrating Midland’s centennial, as dated from the founding of Luther College in 1883. The Centennial afforded an excellent opportunity for a major capital fundraising drive and the monies to change the face of campus with the addition of the Anderson Complex in 1985.


With the Anderson Complex completed, attention turned to the demolition of the old three-story brick Administration Building, located between Fremont and Clemmons Halls, which was said to be held together by wood paneling and electrical wire, and haunted by the occasional ghost. The ghost must have had one last fright up its sleeve though, as at one point during the demolition the wrecking ball came loose from its crane and had to be dug out of the depths of the building before demolition could continue.

Also receiving a facelift during that time was the freshmen academic curriculum, with the addition of a new academic requirement: a course in the” Odyssey in the Human Spirit.” The course offered freshmen a journey through the various disciplines of the liberal arts and was taught by several instructors, including longtime English professor Dr. Alcyone Scott.

Another journey culminating in the success that decade was that of the 1989 women’s track team, led by revered Coach Jim McMahon. That year the team competed in the national indoor meet in Kansas City and brought home the national title, making it Midland Lutheran’s first national championship athletic team!


Cheering on the team was “Melvin the Monster,” Midland’s mascot in the ’80s, whose task was to “scare up” school spirit. For many years, the Warrior mascot was personified through the imagery of a Native American Warrior. This was recognized to be misrepresentative, however, as Midland’s history was actually rooted in European ancestry so just the name “Warriors” was used without any additional icon or mascot for several years.


The renovation of the old Gymnasium-Commons and dedication of the new Olson Student Center would round out the decade. Improvements included removing the exterior steps and making a new entrance to the renovated Warrior Grille and student center, as well as adding additional office space and student gathering spaces on the upper levels.

In September 1992, Midland Lutheran unveiled the Spirit Flag as a new symbol for the college. The spirit flag design included the Midland M, as well as a three-part flame that symbolized the heritage of Midland, including its first home in Kansas, its Fremont location, and its consolidation with Wahoo’s Luther College. The three-part design also symbolized the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The flag was used at special events and was displayed upon the beautiful campus green, which had become lush with trees over the years.

In 1995, Midland was classified as an arboretum by the Nebraska State Arboretum with many of the trees being financed by individuals as tributes or memorials to friends, family, faculty, staff, and administrators in recognition of their service to the campus community.


Further beautifying the space was the addition of the Cross at the Center in 1999. The structure contains a 12-foot-high bronze cross suspended between two sections of granite surrounded by a perpetual fountain. Constructed at the heart of campus and offering a beautiful focal point for the arboretum, the cross continues to serve as a reminder to the Midland community that God is at the center of everything we do.


With the start of the new century, the 2000 Warrior yearbook predicted the “dawn of a new era” and Midland saw many changes unfold, including a new administration and the retirement of several long term faculty members, along with an increased focus on leadership and service.


Additions to the campus included a library Cyber Café, a small Hopkins fitness center, internet access in residence halls, and the Zimmerman Amphitheatre, given in memory of Dr. William Zimmerman and his half-century of faithful and dedicated service to Midland.


In 2005, ground was broken for the new Event Center for Athletics and Conferencing. Now known as the Wikert Event Center, the facility features a glass-windowed lobby overlooking a top-loading 11,000 square-foot arena below. In addition, the Platte Street maintenance building was converted for athletic use and renamed the Watchorn Football Complex in honor of the Coach Don Watchorn, who had won over 57% of his games and was noted at the time as Midland’s “winningest coach.”

The only thing missing from the grand structure was a fitness center. Instead, the university partnered with the Fremont YMCA to subsidize space for student use and still does so to this day--including the use of the Sidner Ice Arena for Warrior hockey games and Warrior swimming and diving at the Dillon Family Aquatic Center.

In 2010, it was announced that Dana College in Blair was closing its doors. With hundreds of Dana students left in limbo, Midland came forward with a Dana@Midland Transfer Plan to help former Dana College students continue their education at Midland.


Midland saw its enrollment grow to 962 students in the fall of 2010. That included 321 students who had planned to attend Dana before it closed. All of those students became part of Midland University when Midland Lutheran College officially changed its name on Oct. 20, 2010, after being granted approval to offer graduate-level courses.


The fine arts program, invigorated by the hiring of a new Executive Director and an “arts for all” mentality, also brought more students to campus and provided opportunities for students, regardless of major, to hone their talents and share their passion for music, dance, theatre, and technical arts.

The addition of several new varsity sports, including men’s and women’s bowling, competitive dance and cheer, and women’s lacrosse and wrestling, also helped enrollment and marked the beginning of significant growth in the athletic department and the university as a whole.


With the growth of the university came an overall rebranding, including the creation of the Midland “wave” M and a new Warrior icon. “Magnus” the Warrior icon was created to reflect Midland’s Nordic history, incorporating both the Luther College Viking blue and the Midland Warrior orange. This new Warrior provided a connection to Midland’s heritage while offering a modern symbol of the strength and determination of the Midland student.

2015 ushered in another new era for the university with Jody Horner taking over the helm as Midland’s 16th president. Under her leadership, Midland has continued to flourish while standing out from the crowd through its commitment to be “relentlessly relevant.”

Midland’s additional location in Omaha, added in 2017, is an example of staying relevant. The 10,000 square-foot facility located adjacent from TD Ameritrade in Omaha’s Old Mill area, is home to Midland’s expanding slate of graduate and adult learning programs, including Master of Business Administration, Master of Education, Code Academy, para-to-educator, and several other certification and licensure opportunities.

Included, is the Master of Athletic Training program. Students in the program have the opportunity to work with the largest athletic department in Nebraska at Midland, which now offers 30+ varsity sports.


Improvements to Midland’s campus have also helped Midland stay relevant, including the renovation of the dining hall and changes to the student center, now named Eikmeier Commons. Additionally, a new apartment-style residence hall, Miller Hall, was completed in 2020, replacing the aging Men’s Memorial Hall.

Also rooted in Midland’s relentlessly relevant vision, is its 1-1 program, which aims to “enhance learning and embrace the digital experience of already tech-engaged classrooms by providing faculty and students with the latest Apple iPad technology.”

Removing the constraints of the typical classroom, the 1:1 initiative proved especially helpful this past year as it allowed students and faculty the ability to utilize iPad devices to access learning resources and applications from anywhere--allowing Midland to be one of the first higher education institutions in the nation to allow students to complete their coursework virtually during the start of the pandemic.

Recent milestones at Midland include record enrollment and retention, as well as a distinction by the Chronicle of Higher Education as the 9th fastest-growing private, non-profit baccalaureate institution in the country!