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Concordia dedicates tree to the late professor Johnathan Steinwand

Editor’s note: Anyone struggling with grief or hardship should contact the Center for Holistic Health at or Campus Ministry at  

MOORHEAD — On the corner outside of Academy and Grose Halls, Concordia dedicated a young bur oak tree to the late Johnathan Steinwand on a crisp Tuesday autumn morning.  

The tree dedicated to professor Jonathan Steinwand outside Academy and Gross halls.
Makayla Anderson / The Concordian

“I had to figure out the message I wanted to give,” Denise Marsh said.  

Denise Marsh, a second-year political science and music major, read the poem “Fletcher Oak” by Mary Oliver, as around 75 faculty, students and members from the community gathered to commemorate Steinwand as he passed away at 58 from a stroke this summer.  

Marsh talked about the significance of the poem and how the tree symbolized Steinwand and the branches of his students, growing and learning from him. Marsh remembers him from her IWC class where Steinwand taught about sustainability and environmental consciousness.  

In class he wore quarter zip sweaters, had a quiet and kind voice, was genuinely nice, very smart and rode his bike everywhere; she would see him on campus all the time, Marsh said. 

“He wanted to know our thoughts on climate anxiety, our personal thoughts on it, and how the world could combat it,” Marsh said. “He was just happy…just a happy guy.” 

Steinwand was not only a professor at the college, but a student at Concordia from 1983-1987, pursuing majors in English and Classics, and minors in Philosophy and Religion. He spent much of his life involved at Concordia teaching English for 30 years.  

Vincent Reusch, chair of the English department, was a close companion and co-worker of Steinwand. 

“I just think the amount that he gave of himself to his students, in sympathy with the mission of the college was just tremendous,” Reusch said. “He was a kind of living affirmation of a lot of what Concordia College represents and aspires.”  

Steinwand was always curious about environmental studies and topics such as eco-feminism and eco-classism. Reusch talked about how Steinwand was such a diverse teacher and how his role is irreplicable in the English department.  

“There are so many things that he was involved in between environmentalism, gender issues, and literature,” Reusch said. “We’re probably not going to find one person who fits that bill because he was focusing on so many different good areas.”  

The loss of Steinwand had a tremendous impact on the college since he was involved in so many aspects of campus life. Deacon Jon Leiseth, who is a Minister for Vocation, Community and Service, gave the opening prayer at the dedication of the tree.  

“Part of what makes Concordia unique is the community,” Leiseth said. 

Leiseth spoke of the weight of grief that many Concordia community members faced upon the news of Steinwand’s death. The dedication began inside, but after prayers and poems, people moved outside to gather around the tree. At first, everyone was silent, the only sound was the birds in the trees. Soon whispers filled the silence, then conversations and eventually laughter.  

“We gather to grieve together to share in our loss… his legacy lives on with anyone who knew him,” Leiseth said. “One of the guarantees of life is that we’re not getting out of it alive.”  

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