Monday, December 7, 2009

An Old Article About Alfred Ottomar Fuerbringer

My brother Steve Sylwester found an article in an old Time magazine about Alfred Ottomar Fuerbringer, a former President of Concordia Teachers College in Seward, Nebraska. When the article was published (April 27, 1953), Fuerbringer had recently been promoted from that position to the position of President of Concordia Theological Seminary in Clayton, Missouri.

I assume that the Fuerbringer family lived on Faculty Lane in Seward. This article provides some interesting details about him and his ancestry and about campus life while Fuerbringer was CTC President. The article's complete text follows:

The largest Lutheran theological seminary in the U.S. (enrollment 778) is the Missouri Synod's Concordia Seminary—a well-planned scattering of college-gothic buildings and faculty homes on 71 green acres in Clayton, on the western edge of St. Louis. Last week the synod's board of electors announced that they had selected a new seminary president: the Rev. Alfred Ottomar Fuerbringer, 49. Big (6 ft. 3 in.), even-tempered Pastor Fuerbringer and Concordia will not have much trouble getting to know each other—his father headed the school and his grandfather helped found it.

Faith of the Fathers. Grandfather Ottomar Fuerbringer left his German homeland in 1838 with a group of some 700 Saxony Lutherans for whom German Lutheranism was getting too liberal and rationalistic, and too closely bound up with the state. He and three fellow ministers built the original Concordia—a log-cabin schoolhouse in Missouri's Perry County—and set out to train a New World breed of pastors in the strict, Bible-centered Lutheranism of their conviction.

Concordia and Missouri Synod Lutheranism grew and prospered with the times, but they never let go of the stern Reformation theology of their founding fathers. Under the leadership of Ottomar's theologian son, Dr. Ludwig Ernst Fuerbringer, who died in 1947, Concordia's serious-minded seminarians continued to master both Hebrew and Greek. Almost as intensively as their work in Bible, Concordia's students study The Book of Concord of 1580, in which their church's doctrines are explicitly set forth. Added to courses in history, philosophy and pastoral care, this kind of work leaves little time for wool gathering; classes begin at 7:40 a.m.

Lutheran System. President-elect Fuerbringer attended Concordia himself (his red hair, now vestigial, won him the nickname "Kelly"). After graduate studies in the late '20s, he went into pastoral work. In 1941 came his first summons to a Lutheran education post: the presidency of Concordia Teachers College in Seward, Nebraska.

Missouri Synod Lutherans maintain their own parochial school system of 1,400 schools (which has grown by 6,000 rooms in the last six years), and the training of teachers is therefore a major concern. Coeducational Concordia Teachers' College combines both college and high school; when Fuerbringer took over, it had 83 college students and some 50 in high school. Today these figures stand at 296 and 135.

"Discipline was quite rigid when I came," says Alfred Fuerbringer. From Monday through Thursday no one was permitted off the campus after supper, movies were forbidden except on weekends, and the college choir was permitted brief excursions within Nebraska, but no farther. Popular President Fuerbringer soon changed all that. His students now can get overnight leaves and go to the movies any time they want, and the choir is just back from a tour through Texas and Louisiana.

"Ninety-five per cent of our student body," says Fuerbringer, "are youngsters who intend to enter the church, and do. They know exactly why they're in school, and exactly where they're going. I should guess that in a nonsectarian college it's the other way around: 95% don't know why they're there, or where they're going."

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