|William Lesher, Radical Ninny, LSTC|
From the LSTC Epistle
Community mourns, remembers William E. Lesher, fourth president of LSTC The Rev. William E. Lesher died January 23. He served as president of LSTC from 1978-1997, the seminary’s longest-serving president. He was 85 years old. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, A. Jean Olson Lesher and their sons, David and Gregory, and three grandchildren. The family held a memorial service in California on March 11. A memorial service was held at LSTC on March 15. “Bill Lesher was a larger-than-life gure in theological education way back when my teaching career began,” said James Nieman, president. “His unparalleled tenure of leadership in two seminaries, including our own for 19 years, is hard for someone in my role to fathom today. It aorded Bill the opportunity to implement a vast range of innovative plans that still stamp our school’s character— perhaps the most remarkable being his wide-open welcome of Seminex. I am grateful to God for Bill’s gifts of vision and commitment, and will miss his wide smile, caring words, and joyful heart.”
Philip Hefner, professor emeritus of systematic theology and senior fellow of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science, said, “In the last months of his life, Bill Lesher spoke of moving into the Immensity. He lived a life of immensity, his death is an immense loss, and he blessed us immensely.” Hefner and Lesher first became friends in the 1950s when they were both students at LSTC’s predecessor school, Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary in Maywood, Ill.
Legacy of innovation and cooperation
During his 19-year tenure at LSTC, Lesher shaped the seminary in ways that are still being lived out today, more than 20 years after his retirement. He helped develop and support coursework for eective urban ministry, the advancement of cross-cultural consciousness and global mission, and the ethical and social implications of the faith.
Lesher was instrumental in establishing the Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS) one of the largest and most effective consortia of seminaries in North America. He also helped establish the Chicago Center for Religion and Science, which is now the Zygon Center for Religion and Science. In cooperation with Catholic Theological Union and McCormick Theological Seminary, he made LSTC a partner in the Chicago Center for Global Ministries. “Bill is and will be remembered for his unquenchable energy and sense of humor, his passion for inuencing both LSTC and ATS Standards to reect the global character of the best theological education, and the way he challenged LSTC to stretch and respond to what he was always dreaming for us to do,” said Kathleen D. (Kadi) Billman, John H. Tietjen Professor of Pastoral Ministry: Pastoral Theology and director of master’s programs at LSTC. She was one of the first female faculty members at LSTC, appointed during Lesher’s presidency.
Ralph Klein, Christ Seminary-Seminex Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, said,“Bill was a boundless source of new ideas to make theological education come alive. He often inspired potential new additions to the faculty with his vision. I remember a number of occasions when a committee thought they were stuck with no way forward. Bill would pop into those committees and by the end of the hour they had new energy and new assignments. Both Bill and his wife Jean were passionate about caring for international students and their families. With Phil Hefner, he was the driving force in founding of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science.” Klein served as academic dean during the last nine years of Lesher’s tenure.
Passion for parish, Parliament of the World’s Religions
Before being called to serve as president of LSTC, Lesher served as president of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary for five years. He anchored his ministry in his experience as a parish pastor at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square in Chicago and at Reen Memorial Church in St. Louis. He graduated from Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary, one of LSTC’s predecessor schools, in 1958, and served as associate professor of parish renewal at LSTC in the early 1970s.
Lesher served on numerous commissions, boards, and task forces in the Lutheran Church in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran World Federation, and in his local community.
After his retirement in 1997, both Lesher and his wife became more deeply involved in the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Their global experiences and travel before and during their time at LSTC helped them imagine what they might do to encourage interfaith understanding and action. He emerged as a spokesperson for the Parliament and served as chair of its Board of Trustees from 2003-2010.
A fuller tribute to William Lesher will appear in the summer issue of the LSTC Epistle magazine.
|I sat in his office, used his library,|
and wondered how it would all end.
GJ - I was supposed to attend the newly built and merged LSTC, especially since the Augustana Seminary merged into that campus while I was walking to classes with the future Mrs. I.
In a twist of fate, LSTC had the A. D. Mattson Fund, and I wrote the PhD dissertation about him at Notre Dame. I sat in Lesher's office with the librarian as we discussed what to do witht the material. They told Mattson's daughter the money was spent, so I suggested that she say, "I have already talked to my attorney about this."
|Radical Leftist Elizabeth Bettenausen gave the A. D. Mattson lectures.|
That was the first and most successful use of that statement. His daughter, now deceased, said, "I do not have have an attorney." I said, "They do not know that. Just say it and add nothing more. No threats."
A short time later they found the missing funds and the dissertation was published, at LSTC's cost, by the Augustana Historical Society, launched at Augustana College. Conrad Bergendoff was honored with a song about sweet corn. Not making this up.
| Conrad Bergendoff wanted a merged seminary in Chicago,|
Philly and Gettysberg merged.
They all merged unto death.
Lesher the Radical
Lesher was not especially bright and had no credentials for running a seminary - except he was far Left and ecumenical to a fault. "An ecumenist loves every denomination except his own."
Lesher turned LSTC, a potential nightmare, into a genuine debacle, by merging with the scoundrels from Seminex, including Deppe, who later joined the Metropolitan Community Church. The Seminex faction worked as a cohesive unit to run the school their way. Seminex meant a lot of professors to feed, hardly any new students, and no additional money. Apostates never miss a chance to make an easy living at the expense of others.
The hagiography from the LSTC Epistle is nothing compared to the obituary from California.
LSTC is just about finished as a school. I added up about seven seminaries that merged to form that Titanic school, built by a bridge company - ugly, dark, and unpopular.
|Not "just wow" but "Just OW!"|