Cal Lutheran Alumni

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Collaborating for Cal Lutheran's Future

Honorary alumna served on Board of Regents during a crucial growth period in the university's history

Siri Eliason, recipient of the 2018 Honorary Alumni Award, served on the Board of Regents from 1994 to 2003, a critical time in the university’s growth. As chair from 1998 to 2000, she oversaw the sale of land for University Village, which made possible needed infrastructure for the growth of North Campus. Her leadership was instrumental in the development of the Strategic Plan and success of the “Now is the Time” capital campaign. The $93 million raised in the campaign allowed the university to build much-needed facilities (including the long-awaited athletics complex) and create new programs, centers, endowed professorships and scholarships.

Eliason came to America in her 20s with her husband, Sven. He was named Consul General for Sweden for Northern California, and she succeeded him in that position. A businesswoman and importer of Scandinavian furniture for decades, she approached her board responsibilities with great business acumen and always thought in terms of growth ­– more students, more professors, more facilities – and what it would take to achieve that growth. Working with the campus vice presidents, she coordinated efforts to work on goals adopted by the board, applying her skills in listening and organizing to the tasks at hand.

Believing that people have to work together, she felt it was important for everyone involved to be on the same path to growth and to know what was needed to achieve that growth. The cohesion of the board was essential. Since each regent had ideas and a vision for Cal Lutheran, it was necessary to meld all of those ideas into one idea, one vision…and then raise money to accomplish it. Bringing all the members of the board into agreement on a new sports center, for example, required great powers of persuasion.

Eliason also was instrumental in promoting Cal Lutheran’s ties to Scandinavian culture through the Scandinavian Cultural Center, the Scandinavian Festival and other activities. Through the years, she has held positions with the American Scandinavian Foundation-LA Chapter, the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce and the American Scandinavian Foundation in New York, among others. She was the director of Scandinavia Today Inc., a major cultural project in Los Angeles in 1982-83 that promoted the arts, performing arts and music of the Scandinavian countries, and was recognized for her contributions with the Royal Order, North Star, from the King of Sweden.

Eliason, who commuted to Thousand Oaks from San Francisco for her first few years as regent, now lives in University Village and maintains close ties with the university. She is very proud of Cal Lutheran and likes the fact that the university works to find the right students to admit and then helps them to go out into the world and do good. She also believes the university’s diverse environment is excellent preparation for life after graduation. Learning to be more open and accepting – and strong in one’s beliefs – is important for every student’s future, she says.