The Rev. Harold T. Nilsson

Current President

Hal NilssonHal Nilsson was elected president of AHA in 2012 to succeed Bishop Donald Sjoberg. He was born November 29, 1938, in Palo Alto, California, the son of a Swedish immigrant father and Norwegian immigrant mother. He was baptized and confirmed at First Lutheran Church, Palo Alto, founded by the Augustana Synod in 1920. He earned a degree in mathematics at Bethany College, Lindsborg, Kansas, continued studies in math at the University of Iowa, and then enrolled at Augustana Theological Seminary, Rock Island, Illinois. During his time at Augustana, the merger took place that formed the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. He interned at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, an historic Augustana congregation, and graduated from LSTC. He subsequently received a D.Min. from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley.

Upon ordination in 1965, Hal served briefly as a mission developer in the Los Angeles area, and then went on to serve as pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church, San Diego, and Zion Lutheran Church, Salt Lake City, both former Augustana congregations. His last call before retirement was as senior pastor of St. Luke Lutheran Church, Albuquerque. Among several responsibilities beyond the parish, he has served as Chair of the Candidacy Committee of the ELCA Rocky Mountain Synod and as President of the New Mexico Conference of Churches. Recently he was elected to the board of the Swedish Council of America.

Hal married Shirley Salmon of Wakefield, Nebraska, an early childhood educator, in 1960. They have three children, Kristen, Karl, and Kurt, and five grandchildren. They are active members of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Albuquerque. Hal is an avid cyclist, and since retiring has ridden more than 50,000 miles in the U.S. and Europe.