By Jayne Sheafer
What began in November 1894 as a Lutheran school with just one teacher and 13 male students has grown into Concordia University, Nebraska (CUNE), Seward, Neb., a fully accredited, coeducational institution of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) with over 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students.
To mark CUNE’s 125th anniversary, delegates at the 2019 LCMS convention, held July 20–25 in Tampa, Fla., unanimously adopted Res. 7-06 calling for the “Synod in convention [to] declare Nov. 17, 2019, as a Synodwide ‘Concordia University, Nebraska Sunday.’” The resolution encourages congregations to celebrate, in a variety of ways, “the Lord’s abundant blessing to the Church through one of its treasured universities, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
To commemorate CUNE Sunday on Nov. 17, the university will host a special service at 3 p.m. CST in Weller Chapel on the CUNE campus. The service will be livestreamed at facebook.com/concordianebraska for those unable to attend in person. More information about the commemoration, including a bulletin insert for congregational use, may be found at cune.edu/church.
Forming future church workers
In his congratulatory letter to CUNE, Concordia University System President Rev. Dr. Dean O. Wenthe wrote, “In November 1894, President Weller could hardly have conceived how the institutional seed that he was planting would continue to grow through generations and result in the flourishing university of today.”
That flourishing is evident in CUNE’s reputation as the “church worker school.” Nearly 30 percent of current LCMS church workers (teachers, pastors and directors of Christian education, parish music and family life) received degrees from Concordia. CUNE President Rev. Dr. Brian Friedrich calls that fact “a distinction we cherish and are working hard to maintain as we seek to thrive and excel into the future.”
CUNE has had several different names over the years (cune.edu/about/history-concordia). For decades it was known as Concordia Teachers College, but in 1998, the current name was selected to reflect changes to the academic landscape that began in the 1970s with the addition of liberal arts, pre-professional, business and commercial art programs.
Concordia has expanded to include dozens of degree and certification programs in areas from computer science to medical sciences to its newest degree in agricultural science. Launched in January, the Agriculture Science Program offers hands-on, experiential, project-based learning. Students study animal science, food science, plant science and agri-business in both the classroom and (literally) the field as they visit feedlots, fields, biotech companies and seed-processing and plant-research facilities.
In a video message marking the anniversary, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison said, “We know that we need faithful men and women to be winsome witnesses throughout the world in all industries and occupations, including business, science, healthcare, music and art. Given our Synod’s rural heritage and footprint, I’m particularly excited about Concordia, Nebraska’s new Agricultural Science Program. …
“What a blessing it is to have men and women prepared for work in agriculture who will understand creation and witness [to] the Creator.”
Concordia’s story doesn’t end with its 125th anniversary. The school continues to grow and thrive through the addition of faculty, new and renovated buildings, expanded athletic activities and new learning opportunities — including an increased presence in online education. With God’s blessing and guidance, there are many more chapters to be written by those who will teach and those who will come to learn.
“Concordia is an amazing place that has been blessed by God with a gifted faculty and staff, amazing students, generous donors, passionate alumni, supportive neighbors and a loving church body,” said Friedrich. “The changes I have experienced during 28 years here are remarkable.
“However, what is most important about Concordia now and for the future has not changed: the bold, vibrant … witness to Jesus Christ and the Gospel’s power at work in the hearts and lives of His people through faith. That is why everything Concordia has done and will continue to do in the future is focused on Him.”
Two new resources offer much more detail about CUNE’s rich history and growth.
A commemorative book, Break Forth and Sing for Joy: Concordia Nebraska’s Song for 125 Years, was written and researched by Ellen Beck, a veteran journalist and adviser for The Sower, Concordia’s independent student newspaper. Graphic designer Sydney van der Heijden, a 2018 CUNE graduate, developed the book’s design. The book, which includes 140 photos, historical data and insights from current and retired Concordia faculty and administration, may be purchased from the CUNE Bookstore.
Additionally, the Fall 2019 issue of Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly is filled with articles about the history, mission and vision of CUNE. Copies may be purchased by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jayne Sheafer (email@example.com) is a writer and editor from Fort Wayne, Ind.
Posted Nov. 8, 2019