Rev. Mark Zarling’s Retirement from MLC as President

Rev. Mark Zarling, president of Martin Luther College from 2007 to 2020, is retiring this summer.

During President Zarling’s tenure, God has blessed the college in countless ways.

The campus saw the construction of beautiful new facilities funded by God’s people: Chapel of the Christ, the Early Childhood Learning Center, a baseball field, and a soccer pitch.

The academic catalog expanded to include majors in early childhood education and special education, many four-year secondary education majors, and minors in urban ministry and Chinese. The graduate program added two new degrees: Master of Science in Educational Administration and Master of Arts in Theological Studies. And continuing education offerings expanded tremendously, including New Teacher Induction, new certifications, and a full catalog of on-campus, online, and on-location professional development options.

President Zarling’s keen sense of vision led the campus family through two strategic plans, two accreditations, a Master Site Plan, and a Master Staffing Plan. He put the spotlight on lowering student debt, broadening international services, expanding experiential learning, and recruiting new students not merely to fill current vacancies but to prepare for new ministries still in development. He also traveled extensively, serving as a warm and sincere ambassador all over the synod.

Through all these changes, he kept the campus focused on the mission statement: “To train a corps of Christian witnesses who are qualified to meet the ministry needs of the WELS and who are competent to proclaim the Word of God faithfully and in accord with the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord.”

Faculty, staff, and synod leaders have called President Zarling a man of faith, a pastor-administrator, a humble visionary, a Christ-like leader, and MLC’s spiritual compass. He spoke God’s promises in the hallways, prayed with colleagues in their offices, and uplifted the college family with his “Letters from Home” chapel messages.

“President Zarling has left an impression on Martin Luther College,” said WELS President Mark Schroeder. “He has worked tirelessly to ensure that our WELS College of Ministry faithfully carries out its purpose. He has personally guided and shaped hundreds if not thousands of students. And through his leadership he has instilled in our synod’s members a love for and a confidence in Martin Luther College.”

To MLC students past, present, and future, President Emeritus Zarling offers this encouragement: “The apostle tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Live daily with eyes on Jesus—and the only way to keep eyes on him is to stay with the Scriptures that reveal him. Make time daily to prayerfully read the Spirit’s inspired words that you may build up your faith. As Jude 20-21 tells us, But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Mark and his wife, Colette, are moving to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, this summer and are planning road trips to the East and West Coasts to see their children and grandchildren.

Communications of congratulations may be mailed to 2631 College Street, Manitowoc WI 54220.

Showcasing International Students

STEM & M at MLC

To The Ends Of The Earth -Second-Generation Americans at MLC

The late 19th-century classrooms of our predecessor institutions, Northwestern College and Dr. Martin Luther College, were full of second- and third-generation Americans. These students’ parents and grandparents had emigrated primarily from one country: Germany. More than a century later, many WELS schools are seeing an upswing in second-gen Americans again—not from Germany, but from Laos, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela—almost every corner of the globe. We’d like you to meet two of them: Buok and Sam, second-generation Americans who are excited to one day serve in the pastoral ministry.


Buok Chuol ’21
Sophomore, Preseminary Studies

“I just really love people,” says Buok Chuol (Good Shepherd- Omaha NE). “And there’s a great need for darker-skinned people in the ministry, so I decided to come to MLC.” Buok was born in the USA, but his family emigrated here from South Sudan in 1997, eventually finding a home and a church in Omaha, Nebraska.

Buok’s dad, Peter Bur, had been a pastor in South Sudan—leading a congregation within the Nuer tribe and staying true to God’s Word. “When we came to the US, we were looking for a church that matched our faith,” Buok says. “We came across the WELS, and we loved that it was Bible-based and that God was always first.”

After some training, Pastor Peter Bur was ordained as a WELS pastor. Now he serves at the church that first welcomed them.
has seen how God has blessed his father’s ministry at Good Shepherd, and that led him to pursue pastoral training too.


Sam Lor ’18
First-year at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

“I was born here, but my parents were born in Laos,” says Sam Lor ’18. “My father is Hmong, and my mother is Mien. After the Vietnam War, they fled Laos and grew up in a refugee camp in Thailand until they received passage to the United States.

My father is now a pastor serving in Kansas City, and three of my uncles are also WELS pastors.” Sam didn’t attend MLC immediately. He began college at the University of Kansas, hoping to study medicine. After a semester, he realized that science was neither his strength nor his passion.

“A year later I enrolled at MLC. In response to God’s forgiveness, I found I could do nothing but serve him through the new life he’s given me through his death on the cross. I’m now at the seminary, and I hope to serve the Lord as a pastor wherever God may send me.”


This feature was originally published in the MLC InFocus, Fall 2018 issue.