Reverend Dr. Seth Clarence Eastvold was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 19, 1895 to Reverend Dr. Carl Johan and Ellen Sophia Eastvold. He graduated from Jewell Lutheran College and Academy (Iowa) in 1913 and St. Olaf College (Minnesota) in 1916. In 1920, Eastvold received the degree Candidate of Theology from Luther Theological Seminary (Minnesota). He received from Augustana College and Theological Seminary (Illinois) the following degrees: Bachelor of Divinity (1924), Master of Sacred Theology (1926), and Doctor of Sacred Theology (1931).
Eastvold enlisted in the United States Army (1918) and served as a non-commissioned officer with the American Expeditionary forces in Europe (1918 – 1919). He was appointed chaplain in the Officers Reserve Corps and served until the expiration of his appointment (1928).
Before coming to Pacific Lutheran College (PLC), he served Lutheran parishes in Parshall, North Dakota (1920 – 1923), Jackson, Minnesota (1923 – 1927), Madison, South Dakota (1923 – 1933), and Eau Claire, Wisconsin (1933 – 1943).
In 1943, Dr. Eastvold was offered the presidency of PLC and $40,000 to settle the college’s debt. During his presidency, the institution paid off its debts, 41 buildings were added, the institutions assets increased from $250,000 to $9 million, enrollment soared from 144 students to 2,409 students, and the college was accredited as a university. Eastvold was a strong proponent of such policies as mandatory chapel attendance and the prohibition of dancing and enforced them strictly. While president he traveled extensively and chronicled these experiences for publication in newspaper and book form. During his time the school attained university status in 1960 and became Pacific Lutheran University. In 1962, Eastvold left the presidency of PLU after a continuing conflict with the Board of Regents on the role of the president following the Ocean Shores scandal. The university granted him a handsome retirement package and stipulated that the Chapel-Music-Speech Building would be rededicated Eastvold Chapel. He became acting president of California Lutheran College on January 1, 1963.
Dr. Eastvold held many other church-related offices before and during his presidency at PLC/PLU. He was a Vice Pesident of the South Dakota District of the Evangelical Lutheran Church for four years, Vice President of the Eastern District for seven years, and first Vice President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church for twelve years. Eastvold served on the Board of Trustees of St. Olaf College for seven years and on the Board of Education of the ELC for eleven years. He was a delegate to the Lutheran World Federation conventions in Germany (1952) and Minneapolis (1957). He was a member of the executive council of the National Lutheran Council, and he represented the ELC at the North American Study Conference of the World Council of Churches (1957).
Dr. Eastvold was president of Independent Colleges of Washington, Inc. for seven terms, and he was a member of the higher commission of the Northwest Association of Secondary & Higher Schools. He was a participant in the White House Conference on Education (1955). In Tacoma, he served as President of the Tacoma Health Council and Vice President of the World Affairs Council. Throughout his many years of public life, Eastvold was honored by numerous community organizations and educational institutions. He was a recipient of the Lutheran Brotherhood award (1958). Luther College (Iowa) conferred an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree on Dr. Eastvold in 1959 and Gonzaga University gave him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1962.
He was the author of several books and numerous pamphlets. His pamphlets included “Let Us Go to Chapel,” “The Pastor and His Spiritual Life,” and “Why Attend a Christian College?” He authored the books Paul and Luther , Beyond the Grave, and Around the World in 180 Days, along with several others. Transcripts of some of his addresses were distributed throughout the Lutheran church and his chapel speeches were often broadcast over local radio.
Seth Eastvold married Enga Eastvold on June 20, 1918. They had two children. Their son Donald Wallace Eastvold was Attorney General of the State of Washington from 1952 – 1956 following which he went into real estate and development and was involved in the Ocean Shores development. Their daughter Eleanor Melva married Sr. D.K. Holian, a surgeon. Dr. Eastvold died from a massive cerebral hemorrhage on February 25, 1963 in Minneapolis, Minnesota while attending the annual meeting of the college presidents of the American Lutheran Church.