Opened in 1957 to men entering the Lutheran Church ministry, Concordia Senior College was the nation’s first Protestant pre-theological college. It is five miles from the city center between the St. Joseph River and woodlands, on 191 acres of gently rolling terrain. Designed by architect Eero Saarinen, the campus was modeled after a northern European village, with three clusters of 28 Modernist buildings, built of white-washed, diamond-shaped brick walls with black-tiled, pitched roofs, zoned by function. Curving roadways punctuated by rectangular parking lots connect the clusters. The central, administrative cluster curves along the shore of a nine-acre constructed lake; its associated buildings are set around a plaza with the chapel in the center, sited on a hilltop.
Dan Kiley created a campus planting plan that specified planting thousands of deciduous and evergreen trees in order to define space and direct sightlines. Parking lots were shaded with crepe myrtles while roads were lined with allées of locusts or Oriental plane trees, sometimes planted in double rows. Open lawns were bordered by flowering shrubs, wildflower meadows, or trees such as flowering crabapples, buckeye maples, and sweetgums. Gridded bosques were planted near the chapel and president’s home, while informal stands of aspen, birch, larch, and willow were placed near the lake. A tornado in 2001 devastated the campus and downed 778 trees, mostly Norway spruce. Subsequent replanting of over 400 trees has attempted to replicate Kiley’s original scheme, while thinning some clusters and introducing greater spacing between trees.