The Rev. Paul Youngdahl ’59 Dies

Posted on June 21st, 2011 by

Paul Youngdahl

The Rev. Paul Youngdahl ’59

The Rev. Paul Youngdahl, senior pastor at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis and one of Gustavus Adolphus College’s most prominent alumni, has died. He was stricken while participating in one of the ministries closest to his heart, Cathedral of the Pines youth camp, on Caribou Lake near Lutsen, Minn., and died on June 20 after being airlifted to Minneapolis. He was 73 years old.

“Gustavus has lost a friend, an alum, a former board member, a parent, and a church leader who has made a mark on the College in ways that few can achieve in a lifetime, said President Jack R. Ohle. “He will be missed and his legacy will live on at Gustavus.”

The Rev. Grady St. Dennis ’92, now director for church relations and community engagement at Gustavus, was one of many touched by Youngdahl. “I was one of hundreds of young people who grew up in the Mount Olivet congregation looking at him as a dad,” St. Dennis said. “I also had the privilege of serving at Mount Olivet with him for eight years before accepting my present position at Gustavus. . . . I can’t emphasize enough how much he loved Gustavus and how proud he was of the work the school is doing in servant-leadership.”

Born in St. Paul in 1937, Youngdahl graduated in 1959 from Gustavus, where he was involved in student government and was president of his senior class. He was also on the varsity basketball team for four years and was captain of the squad in his junior year. He went on to earn a bachelor of divinity degree from Lutheran School of Theology in Rock Island, Ill., and was ordained into the Holy Ministry at Mount Olivet Church in 1963. He had been senior pastor at Mount Olivet since 1974 and led its growth; the church now has around 13,500 baptized members and is considered the largest Evangelical Lutheran Church congregation in the country.

Youngdahl was named to the Gustavus Board of Trustees in 1988 and served on that body for nine years. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by his alma mater in 1981 for his service to the Church and the College, in recognition of “his work with Senior Citizens, the mentally retarded, and the terminally ill, and for his leadership role within the Minnesota Synod of the LCA” (a forerunner of the ELCA). In 2000 the Gustavus Adolphus College Association of Congregations honored him with its Covenant Award for championing the relationship between the College and Lutheran church congregations.

“He had a real heart for young people,” said ECLA Minneapolis Area Synod Bishop Craig Johnson ’69, who was an associate pastor at Mount Olivet for 14 years. “A lot of his ministry was spent surrounded by youth.” Many youth from the Mount Olivet congregation followed him to Gustavus. A few years ago, an admission department survey found 41 Mount Olivet members in the Gustavus student body!

Paul Youngdahl is survived by his wife, Nancy Kay (Holmstrom); three adult children, daughter Kristi ’86 and sons Aaron and Peter; and three grandchildren.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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