Kreinheder Inaugural Address
The Rev. Oscar C. Kreinheder was elected Valparaiso University's second Lutheran president in May 1930. He had been a founder of the Lutheran University Association in 1925 and had been a member of its board of directors since 1926. As pastor of churches in St. Paul and Detroit and as president of the English District of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States from 1918 to 1928, he had earned a reputation as an excellent administrator.
Unfortunately, he came to the presidency at the worst possible time, in the midst of the Great Depression. His administration was almost wholly preoccupied with fund solicitations which, despite the best efforts of the president and his staff, accomplished little more than keeping the University solvent at a low level of subsistence. This was in itself, however, no small accomplishment in those difficult days. In spite of the financial strait-jacket, the Kreinheder administration left a record of substantial progress: retention and addition of able faculty members, restructuring and strengthening of departments, reorganization of the curriculum, a general face-lifting of the old campus, and establishment of the Valparaiso University Guild and a new Alumni Association. When he retired in 1939 due to health problems and exhaustion, the University was poised for a great leap forward.
President O. C. Kreinheder
In accepting the position to which the Board of Directors of Valparaiso University some months ago elected me, I was prompted chiefly by one consideration. That consideration was the conviction that this election summoned me to a larger sphere of usefulness in the service of the church, to which at the time of my ordination I dedicated my life. Since the day, five years ago, when a group of earnest men of our denomination organized themselves into the Lutheran University Association and purchased Valparaiso University for the purpose of converting it into an institution of higher education under Lutheran control and management, I have regarded the mission of Valparaiso University as fraught with a sacred significance as a mission which not only supplies a long felt need in our church, but will, if faithfully discharged, redound to the glory of God, promote the welfare of the church we love, and tend to the eternal salvation of souls for which the Son of God shed His precious blood. This conviction of the sacredness of the mission of Valparaiso University satisfies me that in this new position I shall serve my church as truly and effectively as I did as pastor of a congregation and herald of the message of the Cross. May I be permitted on this day of my formal induction into office to say a few words regarding my conception of the mission of Valparaiso University.
The mission of Valparaiso University as an institution of higher education under the control of the Lutheran University Association may be very simply and briefly stated. It is this: To offer college-going young men and women, especially those from our own household of faith, an opportunity for acquiring a higher education, whether it be for its cultural value, or as a preparation for a vocation in life, in a Christian environment and under positive Christian influences. The need of an institution of this kind must be apparent to everyone who is abreast of the times and places spiritual values above those that are purely material or intellectual in their character. It arises, on the one hand, from the evident fact that today, more than a decade or two ago, the young people of our church, like the young people of our day generally, are seeking the advantages of a higher education; and from the no less palpable fact, on the other hand, that the type of education offered them at so many secular institutions of higher learning today is one that is not conducive to their preservation in the faith and the development of their Christian character. Our church has ever held that a true education demands the development of man's moral as well as intellectual nature, and that every system of education therefore which ignores religion, which leaves out of consideration Christian principles and Christian motives and Christian ideals, which affects the head, but does not touch the heart "whence are the issues of life", is at best sadly imperfect and fundamentally defective. God's Word says that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom", and every system of education therefore which fails to instill this fear of the Lord in youthful hearts, or which, worse yet, tends to destroy this fear in hearts in which it has been engendered, can only exert a pernicious influence and prove a menace to society.
Now it is a notorious fact, attested by abundant evidence, that the education imparted in many higher institutions of learning today is such as to dispel from youthful hearts all fear of God and reverence for holy things. Many a modern professor, who because of his position profoundly influences his students, "knows no God but his own conscience, and worships at no shrine but that of his own senses". Many a modern classroom has become the devil's workshop for undermining the faith of Christian young people, and robbing them of that heavenly, supernatural wisdom which "maketh wise unto salvation". "It is no secret", said the editor of one of our periodicals a few months ago "that the devil today is fighting the church of Jesus Christ with intellectual weapons, that he has called into his service a vast host of unbelieving teachers to undermine the faith of the young folks entrusted to their educational care." In years gone by only too many young men and women of our household of faith have left their homes with the fear of God and faith in Christ in their hearts, only to return at the close of their academic careers either as outspoken infidels or, at best, as doubters' of the truths which they once implicitly believed. And only too many Christian fathers and mothers have grieved over the sad change which the unwholesome influence of their college days wrought in the spirituality of their sons and daughters. In view of this situation there is need today for institutions of higher learning which hold that religion is of prime importance in the educational process, that mental and physical development must be motivated by personal Christianity fostered on the basis of reverence for God and a regard for the teaching of His Word.
Other church bodies have long since recognized this need, and therefore have established and are today maintaining numerous institutions for the higher education of the young people of their communions. Other bodies in the Lutheran church outside of our own, have likewise recognized this need and are providing their young people with opportunities for acquiring a higher education at institutions of their own. But the church body to which we belong, numerically one of the largest, while it has always deplored the pernicious influence to which its college-going sons and daughters were only too often exposed, had no institution of its own for the education of these young people until Valparaiso University in an all together unexpected and, as I firmly believe, providential way, was acquired to fill this need. This institution was not purchased to be another school among schools, but it was purchased, and is today being maintained through the generosity of its many friends, for the primary purpose of providing our own young people with the opportunity of pursuing their secular studies in a wholesome Christian atmosphere. That, under its present management, is the avowed mission of Valparaiso University. It is to offer the fathers and mothers of our church a place to which they may send their sons and daughters with a feeling of security, with the feeling of satisfaction that their higher and spiritual interests are properly safeguarded and protected during their college careers. Nothing less than this is the primary purpose of this institution. This is the chief reason for its existence.
But a few moments reflection will suffice to convince anyone, who ponders the mission of Valparaiso University seriously, of the benefits of incalculable worth and value which this institution, under Divine blessing, will bring to our church in the years to come. It will conserve for our church some of the very flower of its youth, and help to check one of the prolific sources of defection from its membership. It will furnish our church with an intelligent laity for an age in which an educated, consecrated lay leadership will be a crying necessity. It will prepare our young men for positions of prominence in civil life, in which they shall be able to make their influence felt for good of church and country, and it will train our young women, who are the mothers of the church of tomorrow, in those virtues of loyalty and devotion to Christian principles and Christian ideals, which so mightily influence the character of the home, which is the foundation of both Church and State. And in addition to all of this, Valparaiso University will exert a wholesome influence on those students who come from without the confines of our denomination for their higher education. Surely, as we reflect upon these blessings, it must be plainly evident that Valparaiso University under its present management has a great mission, a glorious mission, a sacred mission. May it ever be true to this mission, and for years to come be an instrument for fitting young men and women for faithful service to their God, their church, their country, and their fellowmen.
For the fulfillment of this mission, several things are indispensably necessary. The University must for one thing maintain a high scholastic standard so as to justify its existence as an educational institution, and commend itself to those desiring a higher education. This requirement received the attention of the Lutheran Administration from the beginning with the result that the University is today recognized in the educational world as an institution of rank and character, well equipped and qualified to impart instruction in the Arts and Sciences and other branches of higher learning. But no less obviously must Valparaiso University, to fulfill its mission and justify its claim of being a Christian institution, surround its students with a Christian environment and Christian atmosphere. This too has been one of the main objectives of the Administration from the beginning with the result that through the daily chapel exercises and otherwise a wholesome Christian influence has been exerted in years gone by, and is being exerted in no small degree today.
To accomplish its mission, Valparaiso University furthermore needs the loyal support of the men and women of the church under whose name this institution is now conducted. It needs their moral support; it also needs their financial support. Valparaiso University cannot serve the church in the way in which it is designed to serve unless the parents in our church, who are able to do so, send their sons and daughters to this institution for their higher education; and unless the members of the church, who are in a position to do so, join with other members of their faith in providing the support which is needed to place the institution on a sound financial basis. In a very gratifying measure this support, both moral and financial, has been given in the past, and I am confident that as the mission of Valparaiso University is better understood, and the importance of this institution for the welfare of our church in the coming generations is more generally recognized, that hundreds and thousands of young men and women will attend this institution, and that the means for its maintenance and development will not be lacking.
For the successful execution of its mission, Valparaiso University above all is dependent upon Him who is the author of all our blessings, and who, beyond all expectations, has blessed this institution hitherto. To His merciful care we commend this institution. We pray Him for guidance in our actions, for wisdom in solving our problems, for patience in the face of our disappointments and discouragements, and for strength to discharge our tasks faithfully. Ours is the prayer of the Psalmist, "May the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us; may He establish the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands, may He establish it."
In assuming the Presidency of this institution, I am conscious not only of the great responsibility which rests upon me, but especially also of my weakness to meet the varied requirements of this office. But my reliance is in His unfailing promise who has said, "As thy days, so shall also thy strength be." "My grace is sufficient for thee, for strength is made perfect in weakness." With such ability as I possess, I dedicate myself, in the presence of this assembly, to Valparaiso University, and to its sacred mission of furthering the cause of Christian higher education.