Dr. August F. Ernst (1841-1924) served Northwestern College for 50 years, 48 of those as president (1871-1919). Known affectionately as “The Old Man” or “Oley,” he was well-loved by his students. “It was he,” said his obituary, “who to a great extent cultivated [his students’] individuality and brought their innate powers to light.”
Several seminal events occurred during his tenure as Northwestern’s third president. The Joint Synod (of Wisconsin and Other States) was born (1892); the beloved Kaffeemuehle burned down (1894); the name of the college was changed from Northwestern University to Northwestern College (1910); the Sprinter was gifted to the college (1912); and the country endured World War I (1914-1918). Said college historian and later NWC president Erwin Kowalke, “If any man shaped the destinies of Northwestern, it was he.”
The Northwestern College Alumni Society August F. Ernst Grant for Confessional Languages is awarded annually to preseminary students based upon their academic achievement, campus citizenship and participation, potential for pastoral ministry, and excellence in confessional languages.
Northwestern College served as the WELS preseminary college from 1865 to 1995, when it amalgamated with Dr. Martin Luther College to form the present Martin Luther College.