The beginning of Lutheran Campus Ministry in South Carolina can be traced back to 1924 when the SC Synod formed the Committee on Student Work and started forming partnerships with local congregations near colleges and universities in the state. By 1930 there were Lutheran Student Associations (LSA) formed in all schools with identifiable Lutheran students, under the direction of Mary E. Marley. The first regional gathering of LSA was held at the University of South Carolina in the same year. From 1930 to 1962 Lutheran Campus Ministry at USC operated as a student organization under the leadership of local pastors and the USC Chaplain, (the University position was eliminated in 1965). In 1960 the number of Lutheran students at USC was 334 and at Columbia College, 28. From 1947-1950 Mildred Schalkhausen (Biser) was a Lutheran Student Association Lay Missioner and worked out of a house on the corner of Bull and Gervais Streets. She also worked with other campuses in South Carolina.
In 1962, Pastor Carl Ficken was called to serve the Columbia schools and a stately home at Pickens and Pendleton Streets, the Lutheran Student Center, was purchased to house the ministry near the historic USC Horseshoe. Pastor Ficken served until 1968 and two seminarians from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Hollis Miller and Larry Yoder, served as interim ministers until Pastor Robert Dasher was called in 1969. Pastor Bob Dasher would serve USC for 16 years, through the turbulent Vietnam War years and envisioning campus ministry in creative ways. Many students came to feel that the Lutheran Student Center was their “home away from home”, especially those who attended USC as day students. During the student demonstrations in the early 1970’s the Center served as a first-aid station. A weekly tradition called “Fireside” brought the community together for fellowship and worship. In 1974, the last “Fireside” was held at the LSC in December as the building was purchased by the University and torn down so the Pendleton Street Parking Garage could be built. Pastor Dasher’s creativity and open spirit served him well as the Lutheran ministry was joined by the Episcopalians and Methodists as ELM, representing the denominational names of the new joint ministry, housed in the building at 728 Pickens Street, owned by the United Methodist Church.
In 1984 Pastor Dasher resigned to join the SC Synod staff, and again the ministry looked to LTSS for staff as Shawn Norris served as an interim campus minister. In 1985 the ELM partnership was dissolved, with the Episcopalians moving their Canterbury ministry to Trinity Cathedral.
With the arrival of Pastor John Hougen in 1986, and with a new spirit, Partnership Amongst Lutherans and Methodists (PALM) was formed at 728 Pickens Street. PALM, with Lutheran and Methodist staff, began a fruitful journey of mission and ministry with international mission trips, a traveling show promoting racial harmony, and joint worship. In 1992 Pastor Hougen left PALM and in 1993 Pastor Linda Mitchell began her ministry at USC and Columbia.
The following years saw a succession of staff from the Lutheran Church serving the PALM ministry:
- 1996 Seminarian Christy Lohr (LTSS) (interim)
- 1997 Seminarians Cathy and Scott Mims (interims)
- 1998 Pastor Mark Blice-Baum is called as Lutheran Campus Pastor
- 1999 Pastor Bob Byrne (interim)
- 2000 Pastor Martin Jessiman is called as Lutheran Campus Pastor
- 2002 Pastor Bob Thompson (interim)
- 2004 Pastor Will Rose (interim)
After much discussion, prayer and many meetings, the decision was made in 2004 to dissolve PALM and have the Lutherans, after 30 years of ecumenical partnership, move into the future independent of other ministries. Having called Pastor Frank W. Anderson in 2004, he arrived and began his ministry in Columbia as the academic year 2005-06 began. With a renewed vision of ministry at the University of South Carolina, with ministry opportunities at Columbia College and Midlands Tech, Lutheran Campus Ministry at USC looked to the future. Since that time LCM at USC has grown steadily in both numbers and program, and is now one of the strongest campus ministries in Region 9 of the E.L.C.A. – serving Lutheran and non-Lutheran students with a spirit of faithful discipleship.