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Lloyd C. Petersen

Author’s note: Other than veterans I have found many who have inspired and enlightened me: teachers, nurses, doctors, clergy, farmers and yes even (some) politicians who have given much of their lives to educate, enlighten and make the world a better place. No, no! I will continue to tell you about veterans. There are others about whom you will be hearing who have given big parts of their lives to make ours that much better. Today, I am going to tell you of one such inspiring man, Lloyd C. Petersen.)


Lloyd C. Petersen
Teacher, Coach, Historian, a Legacy in Each
By Gary Kass



Lloyd Colin Petersen was born February 23, 1942 in Waterloo, Iowa to Allen Lloyd Petersen and Floy Mae Riggs-Petersen. The oldest of 4 children, 2 brothers Lyle and Lynn and one sister Loretta. He was named Lloyd, his father’s middle name, and Colin for Captain Colin P. Kelly, the first B-17 pilot killed in action against the Japanese on December 8, 1941. Petersen says his father worked for John Deere and was called to serve in the Army when Lloyd was 2. He later was told by others that he cried when his dad got on the train to depart for his service.


The family lived on a rural farmstead of 3 acres. Petersen said “Really kind of small. No running water. None of the kind of stuff that would have been a luxury.” Lloyd loved the wide-open spaces of Iowa but in 5th grade, they moved to Richfield, Minnesota. He told his parents “When I become an adult, I am moving back to the country.” Always an advocate for wide open spaces and nature, he eventually became accustomed to suburban society. He was one of the many centers/tackles on the Richfield high school football team. While still in high school he became a coach for a girls’ softball and boys little league baseball teams. Of that coaching experience Petersen said, “There are times when we …do… something that will be a life changing catharsis.” That early experience as a coach inspired him to later become a physical education teacher and coach. He graduated from Richfield High School in 1960.


After graduation, he attended a small Evangelical United Brethren Church college in LaMars, Iowa, Westmar College. At first Petersen was not an academic standout, but he was a player on the football team coached by Jack Scott, a hard charging, demanding, yet fair ex-Marine who preached discipline and demanded excellence. After a reprimand by Coach Scott, who Petersen greatly respected, his grades got better as he learned to apply the same lessons of hard work and discipline to his studies that he had learned in football.


Early on in life, Petersen became empathetic to the life and stories of veterans. Lloyd’s father served state side in the Army in WW2 and was witness to a terrible incident during basic training when a soldier was accidentally shot and killed on a rifle range. Like many soldiers, this tragedy affected his father long after. Three of his uncles served overseas and were in combat. One of his uncles fought under General George Patton and witnessed the Nazi’s terrible atrocities at Mauthausen Concentration Camp as part of the allied liberation force. Petersen relates that not until many years later did two of his uncles talk about their war experiences. These first-hand accounts and his independent reading led him to declare a double major in physical education and history with an emphasis on 20th century events.


Lloyd and Rennae Petersen Date Dinner at Westmar
Lloyd and Rennae Petersen Date Dinner at Westmar


While at Westmar, Petersen held a position as a director of boy’s intramural sports. One day, reaching out to new freshman to see if they would be interested in intramural athletics, he met a beautiful, smart young lady from North Dakota named Rennae Erdmann. Three years younger than Petersen, Rennae did not participate in intermural sports, but she and Lloyd became friends. Their friendship blossomed into a loving bond and they were married on August 21, 1965 in Bismarck, North Dakota. In January 1965, Lloyd graduated with a baccalaureate degree in history, health, and physical education.


Rennae and Lloyd Petersen, 21 Aug, 1965
Rennae and Lloyd Petersen, 21 Aug, 1965


Upon graduation, Petersen found an interim job for 6 months as a hospital orderly at Sacred Heart Catholic Hospital in LaMars, Iowa. He loved the work and the opportunity to help others. He became an understudy to a kindly older doctor who wanted him to study medicine and even offered financial help with the required education. He thought about it very hard but, after observing the profound effect on the medical staff on the death of a young mother who died unexpectedly from surgical complications, Petersen said, “I felt inadequate emotionally and knew the medical field was not for me. It made me appreciate more the people who are in medicine and have committed to a career of service. I will always give thanks to the nuns who hired me and the kindness of the doctors who opened my eyes and at times filled them with tears, few of us outside the field will ever understand.” Who would have known that working in the hospital would be the catalyst for Petersen’s doctoral dissertation thirty-two years later.

The following fall he accepted a position at Westmar College as an admission counselor and conjunctively asan assistant football coach. He travelled throughout Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota visiting high schools then returned to coach at football practices and games. After football season he visited prospective students in North and South Dakota, Kansas, and Nebraska.

At the encouragement of Coach Scott, Petersen embarked on the achievement of amaster’s degree at the  University of South Dakota in Vermillion. Completion of the degree included night classes in Sioux City during the school year and living in Vermillion in the summer. In 1968, Lloyd graduated with a master’s degree in 20th century U.S history with an emphasis on WW II and a physical education minor.

Rennae graduated from Westmar College in 1967 with a major in elementary education and a minor in music, when both Petersen’s were offered public school teaching positions in Onawa, Iowa, south of Sioux City; Rennae as a 4th grade teacher and Lloyd in junior high U.S. history teacher and coach. They enjoyed their positions being able to finally put their education to use. Lloyd coached junior high track, basketball and football. After staying in Onawa for 3 years Lloyd was offered a contract as a history teacher and coach at Marshall, Minnesota Senior High School. Rennae said, “How were we to know this appointment would last 24 years at MHS?”

When they moved to Marshall, Rennae decided not to resume public school classroom teaching. Instead, she used her extensive musical background to teach piano independently. She explained, “What people don’t really understand about education is that there is very little flexibility in your life when you are a teacher. So, it really worked well for me to be self employed and available to meet the needs of the family.”

Although Lloyd appreciates many parts of US History, a special interest in Civil War history emerged through a friendship with a 12-year-old boy named Tommy in the Twin Cities with physical handicapping conditions. Tommy was the son of a coworker of his mother’s. Petersen said, “Tommy became a real source of inspiration for me. Though handicapped, he had a keen mind and knew Civil War history more than I had even thought possible.” The young man challenged Lloyd to keep up with his learning. As a result, this special interest grew and became an overriding obsession, eventually resulting in a Ph. D in Civil War history with emphasis on medical care.

In Marshall, Petersen enjoyed both teaching and coaching and became very successful at both. With other staff he developed and taught several elective high school history classes, taught a summer session class of American history and assisted in some education classes for Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU), just across town from the high school.)

Ever curious and looking for ways to improve his teaching, Petersen sought out learning opportunities to become a better teacher and coach. His goal was a doctor’s degree in history but few options were available in the Midwest for non-traditional students. Distance learning had begun to evolve. In 1990 the Petersen’s learned through a mutual friend about a unique course of study to earn a doctorate degree through Union Institute/University in Cincinnati Ohio.

Author’s note: The Union Institute and University is an award-winning educational institute that was founded in 1964 by a consortium of 10 recognized universities. The Institute is designed to help working adults earn baccalaureate, masters and doctorate degrees in a wide variety of fields. The institute has no campus and only employs clerical staff. The instructors in the various fields are drawn from the university’s making up the
consortium, e.g., Harvard, Yale, Brown University, McAlister, etc. Source Wikipedia)

Petersen was accepted by the Union Institute to study the Civil War and write his dissertation on the treatment of the wounded during that war. While some classes were on-line, most of the doctorate level courses were taught only in residence. By now Lloyd and Rennae had 2 children. So, over the next three summers, the Petersen’s would decamp with the entire family and settle temporarily at different universities where he would take the necessary classes to validate his doctorate. Rennae said, “He went to school in Colorado, Montana, California, Wyoming, Iowa, and other places.” In 1994, after three and a half years, Petersen was awarded his doctorate degree in 19th Century history. His doctoral dissertation was on Civil War medicine and was named “Discord, Disarray, Disfigurement, The Wounds of the Civil War”

(Author’s note: In the Civil War, both Union and Confederate doctors found that they suddenly had to treat massive numbers of soldiers with severe injuries and diseases with medical approaches that were inadequate and for which effective treatments had not yet been developed. During the War, doctors did, of dire necessity develop more effective medical treatment protocols and better sanitation/sterilization techniques as well as more effective use of medications.)

Having been in Marshall from 1970 the Petersen’s believed they would soon face a move because Ph. D level positions were few and likely to be far away. Lloyd had a longstanding relationship with Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU), where he taught a few night education classes, sat on curriculum committees, and supervised SMSU student teachers in their internships.

Rennae said, “As God would provide, about the time he finished with his doctorate SMSU offered him a professorship in the Education Department.” Lloyd added “It was exciting to be part of a university where professors cared about their students. Many of the students were the first in their family to attend a university.” It turned out to be a natural progression for Lloyd; teaching students on their way to becoming teachers. SMSU is known for its many innovative programs. In one such program, he helped teach a nationally accredited master’s program in coaching, teaching, or for students preparing to become athletic directors.

Another innovative program started at SMSU is Gold College. Classes are offered to any adult with no grades, no required readings, and no tests. Each semester there is a wide selection of classes from history, music, art, wood carving, literature, political science, writing, all for fun and a way to meet adults who want to continue to learn. “I have a passion for Gold College because it provides an opportunity for life-long learning,” Petersen explained, for Gold College, he has taught on the Civil War, WW II, the 1920’s, Difficult Presidential Decisions, and Western Expansion. In 2009, Petersen retired as a full-time professor at SMSU. In that same year, he was chosen Professor Emeritus by his fellow professors, a designation that recognizes his lifetime achievements in education and his many accomplishments in instructing and supporting the young. Still today, Petersen continues to serve as a professor at the Gold College.


                                                                                 Lloyd in the classroom      Lloyd in the classroom


When asked why teach? Petersen responded, “Shortly before my dad died, he gave me a bit of advice, ‘find a job you love. I hated going to work every day of my life. That was best advice I have ever had. I loved going to work whether at the hospital in LaMars, coaching at Westmar, teaching and coaching at the junior high school, at Marshall high school, or teaching at SMSU. I was surrounded by caring and loving co-workers who gave their hearts to the people they served.”


                                                                                        Dianne Petersen              Jason Petersen

                                                                                    Diann Petersen-Terpstra            Jason Petersen


Lloyd and Rennae, had two children, Diann and Jason. Jason is a molecular biologist in the research department of Avera hospitals. He also has an independent lab for research at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Sioux Falls. There he is involved in research to mitigate DNA damage by ultraviolet light. Diann Petersen-Terpstra is a high school history teacher in Branden, South Dakota. Every other year, she leads guided student tours across the globe to destinations rich in history. Petersen has helped lead several
tours that tracked in the footsteps of American soldiers in Europe, the British Isles and the Pacific. Rennae explains that “…the tours are not devoted to entertainment. Instead, (being) an intensive study focusing on the region’s history, geography and society. “Their family includes daughter-in-law Kara, son-in-law Dan, and three grandsons, Kobi, 21, Braden, 17, and Hayes, 14.


Petersen Family Picture

Petersen Family on Mobster Cave Tour, St. Paul, MN 2022
Bottom - Diann, Rennae, Lloyd Top - Dan, Kara, Jason, Hayes, Braden, Kobi


Lloyd has been a Certified Lay Servant in the United Methodist Church providing leadership on the local, district and Minnesota Conference level. Quoting the United Methodist Book of Discipline “A Lay Servant serves the congregation in any way in which their witness or leadership and service inspires the laity to deeper commitment to Christ and more effective discipleship. This includes the interpretation of scriptures, doctrine, organization and ministry of the church.”


Lloyd and Rennae

Lloyd and Rennae, 2023 Lay Servant
Cornerstone United Methodist Church, Marshall


In 2022, after 52 years in Marshall, the Petersens' elected to move to Sioux Falls to be nearer to their children and their families. Petersen continues to teach via distance learning at Gold College and continues to consult with his many students in the area. He has been very supportive of the Balaton Area Historical Society and his many friends in Balaton. Petersen is the epitome of a great teacher, coach and historian. The Petersen’s have long been involved in their church and are devoted to their belief in God. The Petersen’s have lived a rich life and it is accurate to say their teaching and lay ministry has made life richer for many thousands of people.


                                                                   Lloyd and Rennae    Lloyd and rennae                                   

                                                                                                       The Petersen’s
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