Walk Through the Levang Gallery at Hillcrest Academy

What is the Story Behind Hillcrest Academy

Levang Gallery Dedication

In the late 1800s a group of Norwegian immigrants banded together to form a missional body of Christian fellowship. They later became known as the Church of the Lutheran Brethren. This group founded a Bible school a short time later in the early 1900s after a series of revivals caused parents and pastors to cry out for a place for further instruction for youth. 

The high school department grew out of the Bible school in 1916. While many Christian schools were later created in response to secular schooling, Hillcrest's founding has a unique passion in Biblically-based training with practical skills. What that means is the first mission of Hillcrest is to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From there, students learn and understand practical knowledge and academic skills as a reflection of God's design. A student recently told her teacher that she feels her Bible class is like a history class and her history class is like a Bible class. The Bible is infused into every academic and extra-curricular course at Hillcrest because our foundation is in training students to know the Scriptures.

With this basis, Hillcrest has enhanced academic courses and college preparatory training from practical skills like typing, stenography, and business management in the 1930s and 40s to rigorous academic courses highlighting engineering, political science, introduction to the medical field, and apologetics. The school survived the depression era after teachers willingly worked for free and canceled salary debts the school owed them in a passionate move to train young people to know Jesus Christ and make His name known to the world, and the school continues through faithful testimony of the Lord calling teachers to decades of teaching and ministry in honoring the Lord. 

Because of this foundation Hillcrest has a storied history of asking the question, "Is this Biblical?" when faced with issues. The story of Hillcrest's first homecoming and the creation of their first yearbook lend perspective to this. The governing body of the school proceeded with caution in these questions, seeking first to understand if the desire for homecoming and a yearbook had their roots in worldy desires to reflect modern high schools, or if they were seen as an outgrowth of celebrating the good things God is doing at Hillcrest Academy. In setting foundations in Biblical reasoning, Hillcrest does have many contemporary traditions that high schools across the country have, but there is a strong Biblical base to all of them. The stories of homecoming carry unique celebrations to God's providence in the school. The reasoning behind a yearbook holds truths in highlighting the work of the Lord throughout the year. Canceling classes for days of prayer are also unique practices that carry a tradition dating back to the 1920s, but still have meaning and impact in students today.

Hillcrest is embarking on another 100 years of ministry, and looking back at the founding of the school it is clear to see that the foundation is holding firm. God created this school as a place for high school students to take on their faith as their own, wrestling out hard questions as part of the natural maturity in a personal faith. God bless the ministry of Hillcrest Academy as it continues to equip students in a Christ-centered Bible-based environment of a life of Eternal Significance. We hope you enjoy this brief walk through the history of Hillcrest Academy.

Read a Portion of Hillcrest's Centennial Book

THE CENTENNIAL BEACON

The Centennial Beacon is 28 stories coming from Hillcrest's history over the past 100 years. Historian and author Steve Hoffbeck has compiled some of the most poignant stories that have defined Hillcrest Academy.

WHAT IS THE BOOK

The Centennial beacon is a 10"X10" coffee table book. It presents vivid images from Hillcrest's Levang Gallery that give visual perspective to the stories that have shaped Hillcrest Academy. You will be able to view never before seen photos of Chinese missionaries who worked at and attended Hillcrest Academy and the Lutheran Brethren Bible School. There are also photos of the early days at Hillcrest, students playing sports and in classroom settings that shows a stories past of Hillcrest that continues into the future.

Who Was J.H. Levang // Hillcrest's historian

It is our prayer that you may not only catch a glimpse of our school, but also gain a vision of the great mission field of youth right here at your L.B.S.
— J.H. Levang

J.H. Levang was a cord that united the foundational roots of Hillcrest’s past with the trajectory Hillcrest continues to this day. He attended the seminary in 1938, where Hillcrest started to experience growth after the depression. During this era founders of the Lutheran Brethren Schools noted that the high school department was growing at rates unmatched by the Bible school and seminary departments. These leaders noted that the spiritual fervor remained the same even though the campus was growing younger each year. This experience enabled Levang to cast a vision for the school some thirty years later.

After various pastoring roles, Levang came back to Hillcrest in 1957 as the President of Lutheran Brethren Schools. Always a fan of music, Levang oversaw the creation of a brass band, and would watch the band grow into a full concert band. Levang also commissioned the creation of a full athletic program for the high school department, opening opportunities for Hillcrest Academy to play athletic contests with other schools.

In addition to his vision to expand the character formation of high school students through extracurricular programs, Levang led initiatives to create a distinct seminary program through the building of a seminary building on campus. This was the first new school building the Lutheran Brethren constructed for their schools since the construction of the schools’ building in Wahpeton in 1904.

Levang took great strides in hiring quality teachers in the mold of some of Hillcrest’s dedicated founding teachers like E.M. Broen, the Windahl family, and Marie Skovolt, hiring Don Brue to the English department and future Hillcrest Principal, William Colbeck, to the history department in 1958 and 1959 respectively.

Levang continued to serve Lutheran Brethren Schools until his retirement in 1972. He would later serve 17 years as an archivist for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren. Family vacations often turned into historical exploration tours where Levang would drive hours off the beaten path to interview some of Lutheran Brethren Schools’ first students. His work produced a book titled The Church of the Lutheran Brethren 1900-1975.


It is the honor of Hillcrest Lutheran Academy to name the Levang Gallery in honor of Joseph H. Levang, a strong proponent of Hillcrest Academy and the advancement of the Gospel through rigorous Christian education. Levang penned the following thoughts on Christian education during his tenure, “Christian education is an investment in youth, in our leaders of tomorrow, in future pastors, evangelists, missionaries, church leaders, Christian dads and mothers of tomorrow. It is an investment in much prayer, much patience, much giving, and much faith in a God. Who can take our young people, save them and transform them into vessels of great honor to His Name.”