OTTUMWA — An Ottumwa native has been appointed vice president for development at Luther College.

“When I saw the opportunity, I realized it was the culmination of 20 years working in education,” said Stephen Sporer, who will assume the role in January. “How do we create access to provide people with education? That’s always been a passion for me.”

Sporer grew up in Ottumwa, and graduated from OHS in 1991. His parents still live in the area. Much of his career has been spent at liberal arts institutions, so Luther was a logical move.

“There are not a lot of schools like Luther,” he said. “It’s a time when schools like that need to thrive.”

To Sporer, a liberal arts education is one of the best ways to provide students with a flexible, well-rounded background — especially in the face of a job market Sporer characterized as constantly changing.

He began his career in the classroom. After graduating from UNI, Sporer moved to San Antonio and taught eighth-grade english for two years. However, the desire to be in a position of leadership prompted him to get a master’s degree in adult and higher education from University of Texas San Antonio.

After that, Sporer got an administrative position at Sarah Lawrence College, a small liberal arts school in Yonkers, New York.

While there, Sporer worked as director of student activities and associate director of alumni relations. The position allowed him to rub elbows with some of the school’s famous alumni, like Barbara Walters and JJ Abrams.

Sporer’s next move brought him back to the Midwest, when he accepted a similar position at Macalester College in Saint Paul. He moved out of alumni relations, and transitioned into a fundraising position. After a brief stint at the University of California, he returned to Macalester, where he helped organize the Macalester Moment, a $100 million fundraising campaign.

Macalester, which has a number of international contacts, gave Sporer the opportunity to work in places as diverse as London and Hong Kong. When he wasn’t abroad, he was constantly traveling around the country, engaging with alumni, raising money, and attracting students.

“The day to day is waiting for the unpredictable,” Sporer said. “I view the country as my office.”

In some ways, starting at Luther feels like a homecoming for Sporer. It was one of the first colleges he ever visited, when his sister went to music camp. It also lets him stay close to his friends and colleagues in the Twin Cities.

“It’s exciting to be closer to my family,” Sporer said. “After being in a metro area for so long, it’s an exciting change.”

Jack Langland can be reached at


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