|Motto||Fram! Fram! Kristmenn, Krossmenn (Nynorsk)|
Motto in English
|Forward! Forward! Men of Christ, Men of the Cross|
|Type||Private liberal arts college|
|Evangelical Lutheran Church in America|
|Endowment||$544.8 million (2019)|
|Budget||$186.6 million (2016)|
|President||David R. Anderson|
|Undergraduates||3,048 (Fall 2018)|
|Campus||Rural 3.72 km2 (1.44 sq mi)|
or 372 ha (920 acres)
|Colors||Black and Gold|
|Athletics||NCAA Division III - MIAC|
|Mascot||St. Olaf Lion, "Ole"|
St. Olaf College is a private liberal arts college in Northfield, Minnesota. The school was founded in 1874 by a group of Norwegian-American immigrant pastors and farmers, led by Pastor Bernt Julius Muus. The college is named after the King and the Patron Saint Olaf II of Norway and is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The college was visited by King Olav in 1987 and King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway in 2011.
As of 2017, the college enrolled 3035 undergraduate students and 256 faculty. The campus, including its 325-acre natural lands, lies 2 miles west of the city of Northfield, Minnesota; Northfield is also the home of its neighbor and friendly rival Carleton College. Between 1995 and 2020, 154 St. Olaf graduates were named Fulbright Scholars and 35 received Goldwater Scholarships. Of the nation's 267 baccalaureate colleges, St. Olaf ranks 12th in the number of graduates who have gone on to earn doctorate degrees.
The motto Fram! Fram! Kristmenn, Krossmenn, written in New Norwegian, is adapted from the Old Norse battle cry of King Olaf. It means "Forward! Forward! Men of Christ, Men of the Cross".
Many Norwegian immigrants arrived in Rice County, Minnesota, and the surrounding area in the late 19th century. Nearly all were Lutheran Christians, and desired a non-secular post-secondary institution in the Lutheran tradition that offered classes in all subjects in both Norwegian and English. The catalyst for St. Olaf's founding was the Reverend Bernt Julius Muus; he sought out the help of the Revs. N. A. Quammen and H. Thorson. Together they petitioned their parishes and others to raise money to buy a plot of land on which to build the new institution. The three received around $10,000 in pledges, formed a corporation and bought land and four buildings (old Northfield schoolhouses) for the school. Muus came under scrutiny after a divorce case revealed extensive acts of domestic abuse. He fell out of favor with many of his predecessors, but the school did not officially denounce his abuses.
St. Olaf's School opened on January 8, 1875, at its first site under the leadership of its first president, Thorbjorn N. Mohn, a graduate of Luther College. Herman Amberg Preus, president of the Norwegian Synod, laid the foundation stone of the St. Olaf School on July 4, 1877. In 1887 the Manitou Messenger was founded as a campus magazine and has since evolved into the college's student newspaper. 1887 was also the year that the first female St. Olaf graduate, Agnes Mellby, joined the college. Mellby graduated in 1893. She was the first woman to graduate from a Norwegian Lutheran college in the United States.
In 1893, St. Olaf faced severe economic difficulties. A national economic depression caused enrollment to drop from a high of 147 in 1892 to 129 in 1893. Also in 1893 the Norwegian Synod voted to cut ties with the college, greatly reducing its income. By the August 1893 board meeting, the college was $10,000 in debt. On August 2 the Board of Trustees appointed professor H. T. Ytterboe to travel around the Midwest and collect funds for the college. During this time President Mohn took over Ytterboe's responsibilities managing the college's finances. Over the next six years faculty and staff saw their salaries reduced, and the number of teaching faculty was reduced from eleven to seven. Ytterboe spent six years traveling the Midwest and was highly effective at fundraising, averaging $6,500 per year, mostly in small donations of a dollar or more from farmers and private individuals. By 1897, when the synod reinstated the college, the debt was reduced to less than $4,000. Historians of the college widely regard Ytterboe's and Mohn's efforts as having saved the college from extinction.
Following students' return from Christmas vacation in 1903, an epidemic of scarlet fever broke out on the campus and quickly spread. Twenty-eight out of St. Olaf's approximately three hundred students came down with the highly-infectious disease. With no local hospital, the north wing on the third floor of Ytterboe Hall, the boys dormitory, was used as a makeshift hospital and staffed with two nurses who worked tirelessly to contain the spread of the disease.
At the beginning of the spread of the Spanish flu to the United States, St. Olaf went into voluntary quarantine in hopes of avoiding the epidemic, allowing students to leave campus only for emergencies once they had obtained a pass. The first cases on St. Olaf's campus occurred on November 11, 1918, and shortly thereafter the college hospital was filled to capacity. Ytterboe Hall was converted into a hospital for the sick once the temporary beds in Hoyme Chapel had filled. St. Olaf officially closed for the year on December 7, due to a rapid rise of influenza cases. Four students died from flu complications.
At the beginning of World War II, St. Olaf was not directly involved with the conflict, with the extent of wartime activities including Red Cross drives and a "Bundles for Britain" project. But by the fall of 1942, over 400 undergraduates and alumni were serving overseas. The campus was also ordered to house 600 U.S. Naval recruits for flight training, leading to the conversion of Mohn and Ytterboe Halls from women's dormitories to housing for naval servicemen. Students living in Ytterboe and Mohn Halls were required to move to Agnes Mellby Hall to accommodate the naval personnel.
St. Olaf has had 11 presidents since its founding:
Old Main, St. Olaf College
|Location||St. Olaf College campus, Northfield, Minnesota|
|Area||less than one acre|
|Architect||Long & Haglin|
|NRHP reference No.||76001073|
|Added to NRHP||June 3, 1976|
Known as "The Hill", St. Olaf College's picturesque 300-acre (120 ha) campus is home to 17 academic and administrative buildings, 29 student residences and 10 athletic facilities. St. Olaf is a residential college; 96% of St. Olaf students reside in one of the 11 residence halls and 18 academic and special interest group houses. Adjacent to campus are 325 acres (132 ha) of restored wetlands, woodlands, and native tall grass prairie owned and maintained by St. Olaf, and a utility-grade wind turbine that supplies up to one-third of the college's electrical needs.
Two buildings on the campus are listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Old Main, designed by Long and Haglin; and Steensland Library, designed by Omeyer and Thori. In 2011, Travel+Leisure named St. Olaf one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States.
The drafting of a land acknowledgement statement began in response to the call from The Collective for Change on the Hill after the protests of 2017. The statement reads as follows:
We stand on the homelands of the Wahpekute Band of the Dakota Nation. We honor with gratitude the people who have stewarded the land throughout the generations and their ongoing contributions to this region. We acknowledge the ongoing injustices that we have committed against the Dakota Nation, and we wish to interrupt this legacy, beginning with acts of healing and honest storytelling about this place.
The statement is included on the college website's "History and Heritage" page as a form of recognition of the forced removal of the Wahpekute Band of the Dakota Peoples from the land on which St. Olaf sits.
The Center for Art and Dance is a collaborative project with offerings from the art, art history, and dance departments. It houses the Flaten Art Museum and studio spaces dedicated to painting, drawing, printmaking, ceramics, wood sculpture, digital media, photography, and a metal foundry, all named after alumni and educators who contributed to the development of each discipline. The Flaten Art Museum was founded as the Steensland Art Gallery in 1976. In 2002, it was moved to the Center for Art and Dance and renamed to honor Arnold Flaten, a past professor of art, and his family. The museum has a collection of regional, national, and international works and exhibits these as well as faculty and student work.
The building underwent significant remodeling in the early 2000s and was initially dedicated as the Dittmann Complex, honoring Reidar Dittmann. Dittmann was born in Norway in 1922, and spent the better part of his youth working with the Norwegian resistance against the rising Nazi regime until his imprisonment in the Buchenwald concentration camp. After his immigration to the United States, Dittmann joined St. Olaf's faculty as a professor of art and Norwegian in 1947. In 1952 He and Ansgar Sovik co-founded the International Studies program, now known as the Office of International and Off-Campus Studies. After his death in 2010, serious sexual assault allegations from St. Olaf alumni surfaced under the revisions of Title IX Policy concerning Dittmann and other faculty members. The decision to rename the building was made in 2017, following the pattern of campuses around the country questioning the names of buildings dedicated to notable alumni with contentious histories.
Mellby Hall was constructed in 1938 to meet the needs of the growing female student population overflowing from Ladies' Hall, the first female dormitory competed in 1879, and Mohn Hall, completed in 1912. The building is dedicated to 1893 alumna Agnes Theodora Mellby, the first woman to graduate from St. Olaf. Born in Christiania, Norway in 1870, Mellby immigrated with her family to the U.S. in 1871 and settled in New Richland, Minnesota. After finishing her Academy (1891) and College (1893) studies at St. Olaf, she returned as the Dean of Women and an educator that fall, affectionately known as the Preceptress by those she worked with. Mellby taught English, German, geography, U. S. History, civics, and math, firm in her resolve to see to the well-being of St. Olaf's female population regarding education and housing. She held her position from 1893 until 1909, and continued to work with the college after retiring until her death in 1918.
In 1956, Agnes Kittelsby Hall was constructed with rooms for 164 women as an adjacent wing to the Gertrude Hilleboe Hall. It was an all-women's dormitory until St. Olaf residence halls became co-ed. The building is named after Agnes Kittelsby, St. Olaf class of 1900. Like many St. Olaf alumnae, Kittelsby taught various subjects at the college after her graduation. In 1914, she moved to China and established American School Kikungshan, a school for the children of American missionaries.
Thorson Hall was constructed as a men's dormitory in 1948. It was one of four dormitories constructed in the 1940s and 1950s to address an increase in enrollment after World War II. The building is named after Harald Thorson (1841-1920), an early benefactor of the college. A businessman, Thorson owned farms, sold horses and mules, and established banks. He was instrumental in establishing St. Olaf's School (as it was first named), choosing the initial 30-acre plot of land and authorizing the first payment for it. He later served as a member of the original Board of Trustees. Thorson's will bequeathed most of his estate to St. Olaf under the stipulation that the money be used for the construction of a new building, Thorson Hall.
Before graduating, St. Olaf students complete nearly 20 required courses in foundation studies (writing, a second language, oral communication, mathematical reasoning, physical well-being, as well as other courses) and core studies that include studies in Western culture, human behavior and society, biblical and theological studies, artistic and literary studies, and natural science. Many of the courses are interdisciplinary. St. Olaf offers 39 major areas of study for the bachelor of arts degree, 4 for the bachelor of music degree and 19 areas of concentration.
The average student-to-faculty ratio is 12:1.
The Paracollege lasted for 31 years, from 1969 to 2000, and was an individualized, interdisciplinary option for obtaining the Bachelor of Arts degree. The Paracollege program emphasized student-centered education through workshops, colloquia, tutorials, seminars, and senior concentrations. It was replaced by the Center for Integrative Studies, which allows students to design individual majors.
For the Class of 2022 (enrolling fall 2018), St. Olaf received 5,496 applications, accepted 2,743 (49.9%), and enrolled 809. For enrolled first-year students the middle 50% range of SAT scores was 600-700 for critical reading and 590-710 for math, while the ACT Composite range was 25-32. Of the 40% of enrolled first-year students who submitted high school class rank, 41% were in the top 10% of their high school classes and 72% ranked in the top quarter. The average high school GPA was 3.67.
|Liberal arts colleges|
|U.S. News & World Report||67|
The 2021 annual ranking by U.S. News & World Report rates St. Olaf tied for 67th among 223 "National Liberal Arts Colleges", 26th among 102 "Best Value Schools", and tied at 43rd for "Best Undergraduate Teaching" among 63 ranked liberal arts colleges.
Forbes in 2019 rated St. Olaf 116th overall in its America's Top Colleges ranking of 650 military academies, national universities, and liberal arts colleges, and 50th among liberal arts colleges.
Washington Monthly ranked St. Olaf 72nd in 2020 among 218 liberal arts colleges in the U.S. based on its contribution to the public good, as measured by social mobility, research, and promoting public service.
Steensland Library--St. Olaf College
Steensland Hall in 2015
|Location||Off St. Olaf Ave., Northfield, Minnesota|
|Area||less than one acre|
|Architect||Omeyer & Thori|
|Architectural style||Classical Revival|
|MPS||Rice County MRA|
|NRHP reference No.||82003020|
|Added to NRHP||April 6, 1982|
More than 250 student organizations are registered at St. Olaf, including academic, athletic, awareness, multicultural, political, religious, service (Alpha Phi Omega) and other special interest groups. Club sports include rowing, men's and women's Ultimate Frisbee, men's and women's rugby, men's and women's lacrosse, badminton, cycling, judo, and fencing. KSTO 93.1 FM is the student-operated radio station and the Olaf Messenger (formerly known as the Manitou Messenger) is the student newspaper. The paper changed its name in 2020 in response to concerns of the appropriation of the word "Manitou" from the language of the original inhabitants of the land the college is built on. Other groups include an on-campus organic farm (STOGROW), an improv comedy troupe (Scared Scriptless), and an EMT (emergency medical technician) organization that is the first responder for campus emergencies. St. Olaf students edit and publish several journals each year, including The Reed, the world's only international undergraduate journal for existential philosophy.
St. Olaf's Student Government Association (SGA) finances many student activities and organizations on campus. It operates through 10 branches, each managed by an elected executive: Diversity Celebrations Committee, Volunteer Network, Music Entertainment Committee, Student Activities Committee, Student Organizations Committee, Board of Regents Student Committee, Student Alumni Association, The Pause, After Dark Committee, and Political Awareness Committee. Besides these committees, students can serve in the Student Senate to vote on issues such as constitutional bylaws changes and dorm capital improvement funds and communicate with college administrators about campus issues. SGA also maintains Oleville.com, a website containing information about student activities.
Ytterboe, named after former professor H. T. Ytterboe, was a black dog who became a facet of campus life at St. Olaf in 1942. Fed and taken care of by students, the dog became an unofficial mascot. In 1957, Ytterboe the Dog "allegedly" bit the son of a local police officer Peter Morris. In response, Morris sent two officers to St. Olaf's campus to capture the dog. After he evaded capture, police shot Ytterboe on the library hill, in front of students who were studying for finals. In response, St. Olaf and Carleton students protested, gaining local and national coverage. At the protests, an effigy of the officer who shot Ytterboe was hung from a streetlight and burned. The Minnesota highway patrol was called in to control the protest as students continued demonstrating in Northfield. In response to the protests, the chief of police said, "Nobody loves a dog more than I do. We didn't mean to kill him". St. Olaf President Clemens M. Granskou commented, "As far as I could see, this is one of these tempests in a teacup that usually take place once in a while in the springtime on a college campus".
Initially, the Northfield Police sent Ytterboe's body to a local landfill, but students retrieved it. Afterward, Ytterboe's head was sent to Minneapolis to be tested for rabies; it tested negative. His body was buried on a slope of Manitou Heights the day after he was shot as a crowd of 2,000 students and members of the community gathered to pay their respects.
Between 50-75 students from St. Olaf, accompanied by some Carleton students, occupied the St. Olaf administration building on April 16, 1970, demanding that the school cut ties with the ROTC. Students occupied the building until Friday afternoon, ending their occupation when President Sidney Rand came to an agreement with the leaders of the protest. The school moved forward on votes within the administration and the board of regents in return for the cessation of "obstructive demonstration". The St. Olaf protests coincided with a similar occupation at Macalaster College. 
In 2016, students protested the school's policies on sexual harassment through a T-shirt campaign. Students donned grey shirts reading "Ask me how my college is protecting my rapist" to draw attention to the school's sexual misconduct policies. Information about the campaign circulated through social media and was soon picked up by local news sources. In response, the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Education Department launched an investigation into the college's policies. Soon after, the school officially announced an overhaul of its Title IX policies.
In 2017, a series of notes containing threats and racial slurs appeared. In response, students protested for systemic changes within the school on issues like diversity and inclusion, cultural sensitivity, and hate crimes. As of May 1, 2017, there had been 9 reported acts of hate speech during the school year. By occupying campus buildings, blocking entrances to the cafeteria, and boycotting classes, demonstrators pushed the administration to act on a number of demands. While the protests prompted the administration to reevaluate its policies, an investigation revealed that one of the notes was forged. While the forgery undermined the movement for some, others saw it as a rogue action that did not detract from the progress made.
In 2019, St. Olaf students joined over four million people worldwide who participated in the September 2019 climate strikes, a continuation of the school strike for climate movement inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. On September 20, hundreds of St. Olaf students walked out of class and marched into downtown Northfield, where they joined other Northfield citizens to raise awareness of the growing threat of global climate change. The St. Olaf strike was organized by the college's Climate Justice Collective (CJC), a group dedicated to increasing campus awareness of climate issues and pushing St. Olaf to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies.
St. Olaf's music program was founded by F. Melius Christiansen in 1903. Its band, choir and orchestra tour the continental United States annually and have made many international tours, typically occurring triennially. The St. Olaf Band, currently under the direction of Timothy Mahr '78, was the first American college musical organization to conduct a concert tour abroad when it traveled to Norway in 1906.
The St. Olaf Orchestra is conducted by Steven Amundson. Under Amundson's direction, the Orchestra has performed Mahler's Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection),Stravinsky's Petrouchka and Rite of Spring, Ravel's La valse, and tone poems by Richard Strauss.
The St. Olaf Choir, conducted by Anton Armstrong '78, was founded by Christiansen in 1907 as the St. John's Lutheran Church Choir in Northfield, a collegiate ensemble. It has toured Europe several times, as well as China, Korea, and Australia, performing before heads of state and producing more than a dozen recordings. The choir performs in the nationally broadcast annual St. Olaf Christmas Festival, along with the St. Olaf Orchestra and four of the college's other choirs. In 2005 the choir was invited to perform at the White House for President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, and guests to commemorate the National Day of Prayer.
The St. Olaf Jazz I ensemble was awarded the DownBeat magazine award for top undergraduate large ensemble in 2011. Led by St. Olaf music faculty member Dave Hagedorn, the ensemble toured Cuba during March 20-25, 2016.
Other student musical ensembles include The St. Olaf Handbell Choir, Chapel Choir, Cantorei, Manitou Singers, Viking Chorus, Collegiate Chorale, Philharmonia, Norseman Band, and many smaller vocal and instrumental ensembles. There are also student-run music ensembles at St. Olaf: Valhalla Band, Naknefeler Orchestra, and the men's and women's a cappella groups: The Limestones, Agnes, and Krossmen. In addition, the Gospel Choir of St. Olaf is one of few Midwest college gospel choirs. These groups are not a part of the college's music program and operate independently.
In 2005 the St. Olaf Band, St. Olaf Orchestra, and St. Olaf Choir toured Norway to celebrate its independence centennial.
Ensembles that were founded at St. Olaf include the Minnesota Symphonic Winds, the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, the Copper Street Brass and the a cappella choral groups Cantus, Inpulse, and Magnum Chorum.
St. Olaf is also the location of the sacred choral music radio show Sing for Joy.
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Twenty-seven varsity teams (14 for men and 13 for women) participate in NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports in baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, hockey, skiing (both Nordic and Alpine), soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field (both indoor and outdoor), volleyball, and wrestling. Athletic colors are black and gold, and the nickname for St. Olaf teams is the Oles. All varsity athletic teams compete in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) with the exception of wrestling and Alpine and Nordic skiing.
St. Olaf competes in the following sports:
St. Olaf also has many student-coached club and intramural teams that compete within the student body and also inter-college. Notable are the St. Olaf Ultimate teams, The Berzerkers and Durga (team name changed to Vortex in 2015), which make an annual trip to a national collegiate tournament (Spring Ultimax) in North Carolina. The women's Ultimate teams have been successful at the national level for many years. In 2011, Durga played at the Division III Nationals tournament in Buffalo, New York, finishing in 7th place. The team also played in the DIII Nationals tournament in 2014. In 2017, Vortex once again qualified for the National tournament in Kentucky and placed 7th. In 2018, Vortex won the DIII National championship in Rockford, Illinois. After that success, Vortex placed 3rd at the DIII National tournament in College Station, Texas. The St. Olaf Dance Team supports St. Olaf athletic teams (football, men's/women's soccer and basketball) with halftime performances and competes in intercollegiate events every year. It has performed in the Minnesota Swarm lacrosse team's halftime show and placed third in its division at the 2011 St. Thomas Invitational.
St. Olaf is a traditional athletic rival of its crosstown neighbor Carleton College. The annual American football game between the Knights and the Oles was recently dubbed the "Cereal Bowl" in honor of the Malt-O-Meal production facility that is located in Northfield. The annual winner receives the "Goat Trophy", which was created by Minneapolis dentist Ranthus B. Fouch in 1931.
The rivalry between St. Olaf and Carleton began with a Carleton victory over St. Olaf in 1919. A statue of an eagle in Northfield's Civil War Veterans' Memorial (located in Bridge Square) is turned to face the college that wins the annual football match between the two schools.
The Great Karhu Shoe Race is an annual rivalry between the cross country teams of Carleton and St. Olaf College. The race was founded in 1972 when Carleton Coach Bill Huyks was in search of a new championship course for the Midwest Conference Meet. St. Olaf coach Bill Thornton agreed to a competition between the runners on each team who were not on the varsity top 7. The varsity athletes were still racing later in the season. The trophy for the 1972 race was a pair of Karhu Shoes worth $10. These shoes have remained the trophy to this day.
Several traditions exist between the St. Olaf and Carleton runners at the race. As the race typically falls near Halloween, many of the runners will often don costumes. The runners for the St. Olaf men use safety pins to attach gummy bears to their shorts, which the Carleton runners attempt to rip off.
Based on a Norwegian folk tune, the college song, "Um! Yah! Yah!", is the only college fight song in the United States to be in 3/4 (waltz) meter. It is also one of the few college songs to mention another college in its lyrics.
The lyrics to the St. Olaf song include the unofficial St. Olaf "Um! Yah! Yah!" battle cry. The most common version uses the name of traditional cross-town rival, Carleton College, but the current opposing institution's name is inserted when sung at athletic competitions.
We come from St. Olaf, we sure are the real stuff.
Our team is the cream of the colleges great.
We fight fast and furious, our team is injurious.
Tonight Carleton College will sure meet its fate.
Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah YAH!
Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah! Um Yah Yah!
Um Yah Yah YAH!
The Hong Kierkegaard Library was established with funds from St. Olaf College and Kierkegaard scholars Howard and Edna Hong. As curator, Howard Hong acquired books owned by Kierkegaard, Kierkegaard's complete works in many languages, and secondary bibliographies about Kierkegaard. A subsequent curator of the library was philosopher C. Stephen Evans.
Each year, the library hosts a summer fellowship program. Activities in the summer include Danish courses and a symposium every other year. Year-long Kierkegaard Fellowships see scholars living in St. Olaf's Kierkegaard House.
St. Olaf students edit and publish The Reed, an undergraduate journal of existential philosophy, from the library. The Reed began in 1998, and since then has published articles from undergraduates across the globe every year.
St. Olaf is home to the Flaten Art Museum, in the Center for Art and Dance. The museum holds over 4,000 works on rotating display to the public. The vast majority of the works were received through donations, but a few were purchased. The museum also displays senior studio majors' work at the end of the year to give them experience in having artwork displayed in a professional setting.
In 2015 St. Olaf accepted a collection of 147 rare World War II-era propaganda posters as part of a donation from the estate of Richard N. Tetlie. The posters were created by the Nazi regime and the Vichy French government for display across occupied Europe and were collected by Major Duncan Emrich, historian for General Dwight D. Eisenhower, during the liberation of Europe. The collection provides insight into how the Nazis and their allies attempted to foster racial ideology, encourage distrust of the Allies, and rally support for their cause by manipulating the fear, anxiety, traditions, and political circumstances of the people in the occupied territories. The museum contacted the Midwest Art Conservation Center for a full assessment of the collection in hopes that the posters can be restored. They could then be used in exhibits and as resources to teach about the dangers of propaganda and extremism.
Notable St. Olaf alumni include civil rights activist James Reeb '50, AIA Gold Award-winning architect Edward Sövik '39, Minnesota Governor Al Quie '50, Oscar-winning screenwriter Barry Morrow '70, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gretchen Morgenson '76, and writers Ole Rolvaag 1905, Siri Hustvedt '77 (winner of the Princess of Asturias Award in Letters), and Traci Lambrecht '89 (of P.J. Tracy). Game designer Jonathan Tweet studied at the college, as did the first female major league baseball coach, Justine Siegal. Raffi Freedman-Gurspan graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and Norwegian.Andrew Volstead 1881 introduced the National Prohibition Act to Congress in 1919.
St. Olaf is mentioned in the works of Minnesota author F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose character Jay Gatsby of The Great Gatsby attended the college briefly and worked as a janitor. The college is also frequently mentioned in Garrison Keillor's radio program A Prairie Home Companion, which broadcast its show from St. Olaf on November 17, 2001, and November 19, 2011.
The fictional Minnesota city of St. Olaf was the hometown of Rose Nylund in the TV show The Golden Girls. In the TV show the fictional city's sister city was St. Gustav, Minnesota, a nod to Gustavus Adolphus College, in nearby St. Peter, Minnesota. Betty White, the actress who played Rose, visited St. Olaf and was given an honorary membership in St. Olaf's chapter of the theater honorary society.
The St. Olaf Choir can be heard performing Mozart's Requiem with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in Nike's "Jordan XXII-Takeover" commercial. The choir is also on the soundtrack of the 1972 film The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid.
In October 2008 the Coen Brothers shot scenes at St. Olaf for their film A Serious Man. After a long search of many campuses, they chose St. Olaf's old Science Center because it had the late 1960s look of the movie. St. Olaf has since built a new science center and remodeled the old facility into Tomson Hall.