Dau's Inaugural Address
The Lutheran University Association had been organized and had negotiated the acquisition of Valparaiso University so late in 1925 that it was unable to name a president in time for the fall opening of the 1925-26 school year. So it was in January 1926 that Dr. William H.T. Dau, a well-known and respected clergyman-scholar, became its first Lutheran president and assumed the two-fold task of refashioning the University into a truly Lutheran institution and achieving accreditation.
At the time of his appointment, Dr. Dau, who was born in Lauenburg, Pomerania, on February 8, 1864, was almost 62 years of age. He was professor of dogmatics at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, where he had taught for 20 years. Previously for almost 20 years he had served in the parish ministry and for seven years he had been president of Concordia College, Conover, North Carolina. For four years he had edited the infant Lutheran Witness, the official English-language periodical of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States -- now known as The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
His wife, already an invalid, died while he was in office and his own health was failing. But in just two and a half years, before he retired in 1929, Dr. Dau succeeded in getting the University accredited and setting it on a course that would establish it as an outstanding academic institution with a strong Lutheran Christian identity.
President Wm. H. T. Dau, D.D.
Back of the venture which the body of Lutheran churchmen that is now operating Valparaiso University has made in the field of higher education for laymen lies the conviction that the Good Book is, as it always does, speaking truth, when it says: "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." Ps. 24, 1. According to the conviction of these men the study of this great universe with its wonderful powers and mysterious workings, also the study of man, who is a small world in himself, of his physical organism and its operations, of his mind and its functionings-all these studies can, yes, should be pursued as in the presence of the all-wise Creator and Ordainer of all that is. The student inwardly attuned to this solemn truth enters the far extending plains of science and art walks through their valleys and scales their heights, in a spirit of reverence. As he pursues his studies and research he is made ever more conscious of the majesty, the sublime beauty, the consummate wisdom, and last not least, the incomparable goodness of that infinitely great Power which designed, called into existence, shaped, and ordered this multitude of wonders, and then handed them over to man as his legitimate sphere of activity, with the words: "Subdue them, and have dominion over them," Gen. 1, 28.
True, the human being to whom those words were originally spoken was amply equipped for the task assigned him. He lost his unimpaired vision and adequate mental strength in the dark hour of the first disobedience and the fall. But the original order which bade him conquer the earth and its forces and make them subservient to him was never reversed. He who came to restore man to a right relation with his Maker, and by whom all things were made, in whom all things now consist, and who holds the universe in the hollow of His divine-human hand, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Son of God and Son of Mary, restores fallen man also to his primeval task of subjugating nature and its forces to the mind and will of man.
The student who has tasted the goodness of God in the mercy and grace of the Redeemer is in all his studies carried along by that joyous fervor of which God spoke, when He said to the prophet: "Be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create," Isa. 65, 18. The sciences are not filled with terrors and spooks and hobgoblins to his faith; for he is assured that the God who loved man while He might have cast him aside, and procured man's righteousness in the sight of God by the sacrifice of His own Son, is the God, whom the morning stars praise, to whom the ocean sings its everlasting melody in the thundering diapason on the beach, the bird warbles its song at the rising dawn, the flower sheds its fragrance on the passing breeze. His studies yield him not only externally profitable results, but help to mold his innermost being. Wordsworth truly said:
Nature - can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e'er prevail against us or disturb
Our cheerful faith that all which we behold
Is full of blessings.
It is, accordingly, an amazing statement, though, I fear, borne out by facts, when Gamaliel Bradford in a recent magazine article described the destructive effects of scientific studies after the method of Darwin, and tells us that the impression which Mrs. Darwin first had of her husband's theory was, that it was "putting God further off", and that this has been the well nigh universal effect of his theory. It is a phenomenon too sad, too pathetic for utterance.
Where lies the fault? Plainly in the divorcement of creature study from the Creator. The original man needed no Bible to guide him in his appointed activities; fallen man does. To him the godliness which it inculcates is profitable for this life and for that which is to come. It is a matchless preparation not only for man's future but also for his present existence.
This thought the new seal of Valparaiso University seeks to emphasize: 'In luce tua videmus lucem,'-"in Thy light shall we see light." Ps. 38, 9. The inspired truth of God's Book shall make plain and straight whatever is perplexing to man in any study, because it keeps him close to Him who said: "I am the Light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." John 8, 12. In devotion to the Sin-bearer of Calvary, the Peace-bringer of Easter morn we shall pursue our allotted tasks, and lay at the foot of His cross as a votive offering the learning and skill of the ages, consecrating our every activity at this school to the spread of His glory among the children of men. By Him and in Him, sheltered in His mercy, upborne by His love, we shall hope to
Be good, be true, and let who will be clever;
Do noble things, not dream them, all day long;
And so make life, death, and the vast forever
One grand, sweet song.