|At 10:00 a.m. on September 11, 2020, staff, faculty, students, friends, and family gathered to celebrate the dedication of the Dr. Dean O. Wenthe Chair of Old Testament Theology. Despite the social distancing, it was amazing how full the chapel service looked and felt. The homily by President Emeritus and Professor Rev. Dr. Dean O. Wenthe captured the spirit of his scholarly legacy and the momentous occasion. Examining creation and God’s creative works, Wenthe noted how the text “invites us into the thoughts of God in a very intimate way.” Wenthe captured the loving purpose behind the intelligent design. “God created the world for Adam and Eve. Everything was ordered for their enjoyment and their support.” He also used this Old Testament knowledge as a frame for our worldview. “This high anthropology, the conviction that man and woman are fearfully and wonderfully made, in the image and likeness of God, challenges the false and popular view of our day that human beings are mere accidents—here today, gone tomorrow, mere material.” Dr. Rast led the congregation in praying that God would “bless this professorial chair, and preserve those who occupy it, that through faithful teaching of the truth, it may be handed down to future generations of those who will serve in your Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”
Also on the docket for celebration were the Miles Christi Award winners, who were recognized at the 2020 virtual commencement, but invited back for an in-person experience. The faculty of Concordia Theology Seminary, Fort Wayne established the award “in order to recognize and honor laymen and -women of the Church, who have distinguished themselves in a special field of human endeavor and who, in keeping with 2 Timothy 2:3, have displayed the characteristics of a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Although Mr. and Mrs. Jack L. Barich were unable to attend, Mr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Sheldon and Dr. and Mrs. Dennis L. Ross were present to accept their honors.
The fellowship after service, both outside of the chapel and inside the library, was engaging and enjoyable. People welcomed each other like the dearest of long-lost friends. Ladies in effervescent hats and dresses clustered for chats, beaming even through their masks. Gentlemen in ties and shined shoes caught up on old times, their hearty laughs echoing through entryways. They shared life event updates, pictures of grandkids, and jokes with enchanting enthusiasm, eventually making their way from coffee to lunch.
Tables with colorful, seasonal decorations filled the historic portion of the library and spilled over outdoors where children of campus families ran and played in the sunshine. I remarked how rare it was that people didn’t immediately form a line upon hearing that lunch was served—they were too engrossed in captivating conversation. The creative dining team had a splendid spread laid out and, with a little nudge, our faculty and friends assembled, were safely served, and savored the meal together.
After lunch came the tour. When it comes to the history and architecture of CTSFW and the Wayne and Barbara Kroemer Library, there is no one quite as knowledgeable as Rev. Prof. Robert Roethemeyer. Our beloved guests were treated to a guided exploration of the beautiful Seminary campus grounds. Anyone stepping foot on campus would remark on its beauty, but learning all of its fascinating origin stories and delightful little details adds a whole new dimension to one’s appreciation.
Newly appointed Dean O. Wenthe Professor of Old Testament Theology Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Pulse gave an engaging lecture on “Shepherds and Shepherding in Scripture” that proved to be a popular and pleasant feature of the day. Pulse gave new insight into Christ as our Good Shepherd. He explained that although shepherds in the west herd their sheep, sheep in Israel follow their shepherd, just as we follow ours. With adequate spacing allotted, the auditorium was just about filled—alongside thousands of virtual attendees—and we heard nothing but praise for his speaking and congratulations on his achievement.
A delicious dinner followed the lecture, allowing for more time to relish in the good company and commend Dr. Pulse and Dr. Wenthe. It was wonderful to see and hear Dr. Wenthe’s joy over the events of the day, those gathered to celebrate with him, and in speaking of his relationship with the Seminary. His gifts have incalculably benefitted countless students and their congregations over the years. It was certainly clear that his legacy is well established.
Not only did this event honor Wenthe, Pulse, and the Miles Christi Award recipients, it highlighted the dedicated and loving community that has surrounded CTSFW over many years and through many stages of its development. I heard people speak passionately about the Great Commission, their love of the Seminary’s mission, and the deep desire to be of service in any way that they could. Their faith and love is inspiring and contagious. I had already been impressed by the people of CTSFW, but being among this broader body of believers felt like breathing rare and refreshing air.
We are so thankful for the great legacy of support that has enabled us to form servants in Jesus Christ who teach the faithful, reach the lost, and care for all for 175 years! Lord willing, with the dedication of donors and teachers such as Drs. Wenthe and Pulse, we will “Make Known His Deeds!” for 175 years more and beyond.Dr. Dean O. Wenthe served as president of Concordia Theological Seminary from 1996-2011, as well as professor of exegetical theology. A graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (1971), Wenthe received his Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1975 and an M.A. (1985) and Ph.D. (1991) from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He served as a pastor at Zion Lutheran Church, Atlantic, Iowa; Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Wayne Trace, Indiana; and Zion Lutheran Church, Garrett, Indiana, as well as pastoral assistant at Emanuel Lutheran Church, New Haven, Indiana. He currently serves as president of the Concordia University System.