Founders gets Bahls-y new name change


Photo submitted by the college. Augustana President Steve Bahls with his wife Jane Bahls. Photo taken by Megan McLaughlin

Anh Bui

On June 1, Founder’s Hall will be renamed to honor Steve and Jane Bahls. After 19 years as president of Augustana College, Steven Bahls will retire effective July 1, 2022. During his tenure, he guided Augie through countless challenges while driving the college to new heights, according to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, John Murabito.

Because of the Bahls’ legacy, the board has voted to rename Founders Hall to The Steve and Jane Bahls Campus Leadership Center.

The renaming came as a surprise for President Bahls himself, and he said he is grateful for the acknowledgement of his wife, Jane Bahls.

“It’s very humbling to me that the college trustees would do this,” Bahls said in an interview with the Observer. “I was particularly pleased that the college decided to include my wife Jane’s name in it, because she’s been a very strong partner for me and interacting with students, helping with fundraising and interacting with the endowment society at Augustana College.” 

Murabito said that one of the main reasons for renaming the hall was to continue to honor people who made an impact on the college. 

“The Board of Trustees felt that it was important to honor Steve and Jane Bahls in a way that we have honored other past presidents who have made a significant contribution to Augustana. It was important that Steve and Jane have a building named after them that was in fact one of the key buildings on campus,” Murabito, who agreed to speak with the Observer, said. 

Kent Barnds, executive vice president of external relations, also said he felt that it was necessary to honor the Bahls’ in this way. 

“We came up with a framework that they thought would be fitting; one of the things that they thought about is other spaces on campus that are named after former presidents like Sorenson Hall, Bergendoff Hall and Tredway library,” Barnds said. 

Barnds said that the board also wanted the building honoring the Bahls’ to be very visible on campus and to represent Bahls’ values. 

Some of President Bahls’ 19 years of achievement include Augie Choice, the investment of over 100 million dollars in campus greenery, the renovations of Evald Hall and Old Main to new facilities like Swanson Commons and the Lindenberg Center, 12 new majors and several new athletic programs. 

However, one of Bahls’ proudest accomplishments was his commitment to diversity and inclusion, especially towards the increase of international students at Augustana College. 

“​​We have many more international students compared to when I came. Back then, I could fit all the international students around my dining room table. And now, 13 percent of students on campus are international students. It’s important for Augustana not only to reflect America’s diversity, but the diversity that we see across the globe,” Bahls said. 

One main concern surrounding renaming Founder’s Hall is that the renaming will override the legacy of the Founders of Augustana College. However, Barnds said that Augustana will continue to honor the founders. 

“Founders Lounge is going to be right outside of the office of the President. We also have Founders Circle. We will still maintain their name and some distinction, even though the hall will be named the Steven and Jane Bahls Campus Leadership Center,” Barnds said.