The following is a reprint of an article that appeared in the November 2008 issue of the For The Life of the World
New Library Announced at Opening Service
By Rev. Ralph G. Schmidt
Opening services are never ordinary days at any seminary. But
September 7, 2008, was a most extraordinary day in the history of
Concordia Theological Seminary. For on this day, Dr. Dean O. Wenthe,
President of the seminary, announced plans to build a major addition to
Walther Library on the Fort Wayne campus.
Designed by world famous architect Eero Saarinen, the campus was
dedicated in 1958 as the home of Concordia Senior College. The campus
won national architectural acclaim and served the Senior College well.
But when the seminary moved to Fort Wayne from Springfield, Illinois,
twenty years later, the library, while a beautiful building, was not
adequate to hold the rich repository of books belonging to the seminary
library. It was, in fact, only half the size of the Springfield library.
Over the past three decades, the lack of space was compounded by
additions to the library holdings. Today almost forty thousand books
are in storage in other parts of the campus, requiring special forms to
be filled out and library staff to retrieve them when students select
them for use. The seminary's rare book collection, an irreplaceable
asset consisting of an additional six thousand volumes, is housed in
yet another part of the campus with very limited accessibility. Some of
these priceless tomes date from Luther's time and require special
environmental care for preservation.
Walther Library today has limited administrative space, limited
technological access, no space for students to work collaboratively,
and cramped study space in general. For many years, the seminary's
accrediting agencies have lavished praise on the library staff, headed
by three men who have both library and theological degrees, while
strongly encouraging the seminary to improve the facilities that are
critical to the students learning environment.
Over the past number of years, several plans have been advanced for
either a new free-standing library or a library addition. None of them,
however, captured the essence of the Saarinen campus nor were they in a
range of affordability. Early last year, design proposals were invited,
netting submissions from six architectural firms. From these proposals
emerged a plan submitted by MSKTD architectural firm in Fort Wayne that
beautifully carried on the Saarinen design within a budget that the
seminary felt was achievable. Dr. Wenthe announced that he had signed a
contract with MSKTD two days earlier, and work on detailed drawings
will proceed immediately. Construction is expected to begin next summer
with preliminary work being done already this winter.
The library addition will add 48,000 square feet to the 15,000
square feet currently in Walther Library. It will house all 175,000
volumes the seminary currently possesses with enough additional space
for another twenty-five years of acquisitions. When the shelf capacity
is reached, a system of compact movable shelving can be installed that
will double the capacity and add another century at the current pace of
acquisitions before needing further space. Already Walther Library is
considered the finest theological collection in the state of Indiana.
As part of two different library consortia, books are routinely loaned
and borrowed. Amazingly, for every book requested from other libraries,
between five and six books are requested to be borrowed by other
libraries. Two of the three most frequent borrowers are Valparaiso
University and the University of Notre Dame, a notable testimony to the
value of the seminary's collection.
The library addition will feature a rare book room with a reading
room adjoining it, both of which will be environmentally controlled. A
sample pastors study with the resources the faculty believes should be
in the possession of the typical parish pastor will be another feature.
Expanded administrative space will add to the efficiency of the
excellent library staff. Enhanced technological areas will aid students
in their quest for knowledge.
The current lack of any group study space will be eliminated by a
number of small rooms seating six to twelve students where group study
and discussion can occur without disturbing others in the main area of
the library. These rooms will also be perfectly sized for the Greek
readings classes that all students take throughout their seminary
studies. These classes focus on the reading for the coming Sunday,
translating the texts from the original language, and then discussing
how they may be applied in the Sunday sermon.
Another room will be devoted to materials for children and young
adults, featuring all the curricular materials published by Concordia
Publishing House for elementary and high school religion classes,
Sunday School, Weekday School, and confirmation classes. This will
benefit students as well as Fort Wayne area churches and schools.
Enhanced study areas will be located throughout the building where
students will be able to study in a quiet atmosphere away from the
centers of activity that currently interrupt the concentration of
students. Increased technology, including a special classroom for
students to learn how to use library technology, will be another
The cost of the library addition and renovation of Walther Library
is estimated to be about $8,000,000. The Advancement Department has
quietly been raising funds since last year, and Dr. Wenthe was able to
announce at the opening service that already $5,625,000 has been
committed to this project. Rev. Ralph G. Schmidt, Vice President for
Institutional Advancement, said, Our donors have expressed a tremendous
sense of excitement for this project and have opened their hearts to
give exceedingly generous gifts to bring to fruition what for so long
seemed a distant dream. They have demonstrated magnificent confidence
in the seminary's contribution to The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod in
preparing biblically and confessionally sound pastors, missionaries,
and deaconesses who will bring the care and compassion of our Savior to
His people as they proclaim His precious Gospel of salvation.
The seminary library benefits not only current students but pastors
throughout the Synod. Pastors from all over the country can also access
the resources of the library from wherever they may be serving,
borrowing books, and making use of many of the online resources. The
extension of the library's services is an integral part of the ongoing
education of our clergy. Graduate students come from all areas of the
country and, indeed, from around the world to study at the seminary.
Upon returning to mission fields and partner churches, many online
resources remain available to them as well.
The library addition is part of a $15,000,000 capital campaign that
also includes $5,000,000 in added endowment and $2,000,000 for a family
life center to house the Food and Clothing Co-op following construction
of the library. Dr. Wenthe was also able to announce that the endowment
portion of the campaign has almost reached its goal. The campaign,
named Into All the World, is over and above the regular substantial
gifts given for student aid and the general operating budget of the
Those who are interested in giving a special gift or multi-year
pledge to the library may do so by sending in the coupon below or
calling the seminary Advancement Office at 1-877-287-4338.