The Gustavus Adolphus College community will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the March 29, 1998 tornado that struck campus and the city of St. Peter during daily chapel service at 10 a.m. on Monday, March 17. The commemoration will take place 12 days prior to the actual anniversary because students will be on Spring Break/Easter Recess.
Weather permitting, the service will include an outdoor prayer in four directions to replicate a prayer that was said during the first chapel service following the tornado. The cross from Christ Chapel’s original steeple, which was found on the hill near Rundstrom Hall after the tornado, will be placed over the baptismal font. The eternal flame, which was still burning in Christ Chapel despite every window being broken, will be carried during the service as well.
The tornado swept through the college and the city of St. Peter at approximately 5:29 p.m., causing some degree of damage to all 59 buildings on campus. About 80 percent of the windows on campus were shattered and more than 2,000 mature trees were uprooted. Total damage was estimated at $50-52 million and classes were cancelled for three weeks. Fortunately, no deaths or serious injuries were sustained on campus as a result of the storm.
A campaign, titled “Rebuilding a Greater Gustavus,” was created under the leadership of then President Axel Steuer and 10 years later the results are astounding. The college received a record number of applications in 2007 and has sustained an enrollment of around 2,600 full-time students. Since 1998 the college has constructed a new campus center that houses a nationally acclaimed cafeteria, a post office, a popular coffee shop, an art museum, the office of student activities, and more. Two new residence halls have been erected since 1998 as well as a state-of-the-art 5,000-seat football stadium.
In addition to the March 17 chapel service, members of the Gustavus community are participating with the greater St. Peter community in the TREEmendous Twister Party on March 29 at the St. Peter Community Center. The event will feature activities for all ages, a silent service auction, and a “quiet room” which will showcase tornado photos and memorabilia, and provide an opportunity for community members to share their stories of the tornado and its aftermath. This event is the primary commemorative event in the city marking the storm’s anniversary.
Click here to view a photo gallery that includes pictures of campus immediately after the tornado and pictures of campus today.
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin