By John Mai

On October 11, 2019, Minneapolis Area Synod Bishop Ann Svennungsen was honored with Concordia College’s Alumni Achievement Award. She received the award during the college’s Homecoming Banquet in front of hundreds of alumni who returned to their alma mater. Three other alumni – Dr. Paul Brandvik (59), Dr. Kristi Ferguson (71), and Dr. Thomas Samuelson (81) – were also recognized.

Amy Kelly, Concordia’s communications director, explained that “the Alumni Achievement Award is indeed the pinnacle award for recognizing Concordia graduates who have carried out the mission of the college in their careers and life.” She added that only a select group of esteemed alumni receive this recognition.


AS A STUDENT AT Concordia, Bishop Ann sang in the choir and studied math, intending to become a pharmacist. However, by the time she graduated, she had a deeper sense of vocation. She asked herself questions like “What are the gifts God has given me, and how can I best use my gifts to serve others?” Reflecting on her time in Moorhead, she affirmed that her four years were “some of the most transformative years of [her] life.”

While a student at Concordia, Bishop Ann was student body president—the first woman to hold that position at the college. She would be the first woman to do a number of things in her career.


Since graduating, Bishop Ann has experienced other firsts among her many accolades. In 1996, she returned to Moorhead to become the first female senior pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, the largest congregation to have a female senior pastor at the time. And in 2012, she became the first female bishop to serve in the state of Minnesota.

Speaking about the bishop’s good work in and around the church and her reputation as a trailblazer, Kelly added, “Concordia is pleased to award Ann the Alumni Achievement Award and look forward to following her continued career.”

Bishop Svennungsen reflects on such an accolade, concluding “One just lives one’s life and does the next thing that God is calling you to. And you’re not thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to be a pioneer’; you’re just thinking ‘I’m trying to do good in the world.’”