Nine presidents have served North Park since its founding in 1891. This page features short sketches of the lives and contributions of the first eight. Visit the page of the University's current president
First Term 1891-1905
David Nyvall (1863-1946) was born in Sweden the son of a colporteur and leader of the Covenant Movement in Sweden. He immigrated to America at age 23.
David Nyvall and family
Nyvall’s teaching career began at the Chicago Theological Seminary. He felt strongly that the Covenant should have its own school and became one one of the original professors at Skogsbergh's school in Minneapolis. The school relocated to Chicago in 1894 and became known as North Park College.
Nyvall and Wife Louise on a Boat
Nyvall served as the first president of North Park and professor of New Testament in the Seminary. Under his leadership and guidance, the school survived struggles and grew. Largely as a result of criticism and disagreement about the infamous Gold money, Nyvall resigned as president and professor in 1904 and left the school in 1905.
Group Portrait of North Park Academy on the Steps of Old Main in 1908
A.W. Fredrickson joined the North Park Academy faculty in 1895 and became a beloved teacher. He is seated in the front row of the group portrait above.
Fredrickson served as second president of North Park after Nyvall resigned in 1905.
North Park Faculty: Wilson, Nyvall, Larson, Lindblade, Mellander, Fredrickson, 1896
Fredrickson’s serious health problems caused by diabetes lead to his untimely death in 1909.
Rev. Carl Hanson who had been called to teach in the seminary served as acting president from 1909 to 1911. C. J. Wilson served as acting president during the 1911-1912 academic year.
Second Term 1912-1923
Nyvall accepted the call to return for a second term as president in 1912. Between terms he served as president of Walden College (a college started by Covenant churches in Kansas) from 1905 to 1908 and was the inaugural professor of Scandinavian Languages and Literature at the University of Washington from 1910 to 1912.
Fredrickson with North Park Band on steps of Old Main, 1901
Nyvall guided the growth of the young institution. The gymnasium-auditorium building (now Hamming Hall) was added to the campus in 1916, a change that had both critics and supporters.
Academic programs were organized to suit the changing needs of students. The junior college department was re-established in 1919, and a Bible Institute was added in 1921. The academy (high school) and junior college were reorganized to include courses from departments formerly called primary and commercial.
T.W. Anderson and David Nyvall
After he resigned in 1923, Nyvall continued to serve North Park and the Covenant Church as dean of the Seminary and professor until 1941. Nyvall's legacy is felt in many ways. The seminary building, Nyvall Hall, bears his name. His understanding of Christian education, specifically Covenant Education, is still normative and formative at North Park University. David Nyvall surely was "our greatest and clearest light."
Algoth Ohlson was an ordained minister in the Covenant Church and served in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Chicago before coming to North Park.
Ohlson Recieving Check from T.W. Anderson for Seminary Building
Ohlson and Nyvall Eating on a Bridge, 1928
Under Ohlson’s leadership the college became a respected junior college, and the seminary improved its academic standards. He served for twenty-five years, encompassing the prosperous twenties, the depression-ridden thirties, and the war and post-war periods of the forties.
Clarence A. Nelson
Clarence Nelson (1900-1970) came to North Park from Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis where he served as president from 1943 to 1950.
Nelson Handing Out Diplomas at Commencement, 1951
Under Nelson’s leadership the seminary became an accredited graduate institution of the American Association of Theological schools in 1954. It granted its first bachelor of divinity (now master of divinity) degrees in 1957. The junior college became a four-year liberal arts college and expanded its curriculum. The first college class received bachelor’s degrees in 1960.
Dedication of Burgh Hall, 1956
New buildings were required to expand the school but the community had become fully developed. North Park briefly explored the possibility of relocating the campus to suburban Niles. Upon reevaluation, the board of directors decided the school should remain in Chicago and construction on campus began. After land was acquired, Sohlberg Hall, Burgh Hall, and Wallgren Library were built. An athletic field was built two blocks east of the campus and the new gymnasium-auditorium opened in 1959.
Nelson served until he became president of the Evangelical Covenant Church in 1959
Karl A. Olsson
Karl A. Olsson (1913-1996) attended North Park College and Seminary between 1931 and 1933. He was a Covenant pastor in Minnesota and Chicago before he became ordained in the Evangelical Covenant Church and enlisted in the Army in 1942 where he served in two wars.
Karl Olsson's Inaguration with Nelson and Ohlson, 1959
He earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Chicago where he was a faculty member and dean of students.
Olsson returned to North Park to teach English and church history. He then served as president of North Park during a turbulent time of unrest on many college campuses. Under his leadership many changes occurred, including the building of Anderson Hall and Carlson Tower.
He retired from the position in 1970 and concentrated on his work with relational ministries, through Faith at Work, Inc. and through his own organization, Relational Ministries, Inc.
Mayor Daley and Karl Olsson Talking Over North Park College Model
Olsson was a prolific writer, contributing countless articles to the Covenant Companion and publishing twelve books, including, By One Spirit, a history of the Covenant Church (1962).
Lloyd H. Ahlem
Lloyd Ahlem was the first lay person to serve as president of North Park. A former administrator and professor at Stanislaus State College in California, he also served on North Park’s board of directors from 1966 to 1970.
Dedication of Lina Sandell Statue, 1976
The expansion of the curriculum and facilities to fit the needs of a four-year school brought with it financial challenges. During Ahlem’s tenure the school regained financial stability.
The composition of the student body of the college and seminary changed during this period. Seminary enrollment increased after the seminary began awarding master of divinity degrees to women in 1974. More women enrolled after the 1976 Covenant annual meeting voted to ordain women.
Ahlem with His Children at ''George's,'' 1978
North Park’s men’s basketball teams won three consecutive NCAA Division III national championships in 1978, 1979, and 1980.
When Ahlem resigned in 1979, the board of directors appointed Rev. Arthur A.R. Nelson as acting president and dean of students Carroll J. Peterson as director of administrative affairs.
William R. Hausman
William Hausman (born 1942) was ordained by the Evangelical Covenant Church in 1971 and was the Associate Dean at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School before he came to North Park.
Hausman with Board Member Lorraine Anderson, 1985
The 1980 Covenant annual meeting called William Hausman as the seventh president of North Park and approved the location task force recommendation that North Park remain in Chicago and upgrade its campus. Despite ambitious changes proposed for the campus, the economy and declining enrollment of the 1980s prevented many of the upgrades.
Dedication of Old Main, 1987
Governor Thompson speaking
Park remain in Chicago and upgrade its campus. Despite ambitious changes proposed for the campus, the economy and declining enrollment of the 1980s prevented many of the upgrades.
David G. Horner
David Horner (born Nov. 5, 1949) was the first non-Covenanter to become president of North Park. He previously served as president of Barrington College from 1979 to 1985.
Four North Park Presidents
During Horner’s seventeen-year tenure, enrollment climbed to record highs and the student body became more racially and ethnically diverse. Total enrollment in the institution doubled as adult degree completion programs and graduate programs in business, nonprofit management, nursing education, community development, and music were created. With the addition of graduate programs the school changed its name to North Park University in 1997.
Mount Parkmore, 1991
Successful capital fund campaigns enabled the school to increase its endowment, reduce debt, improve facilities and add new buildings: Anderson Chapel, Brandel Library and the green space, a new soccer field and track in West River Park, and the Holmgren Athletic Complex.
When Horner resigned in 2004, board chair Bruce Bickner was named acting chief executive officer, and John Phelan, Carl Balsam, and Dan Tepke were appointed as the Office of the President leadership team.