Author Topic: Dr. Richard Baepler+ (1930-2020)  (Read 490 times)


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Dr. Richard Baepler+ (1930-2020)
« on: November 25, 2020, 12:44:38 AM »
Rev. Dr. Richard Baepler, founding dean of Valpo's honor college and a long-time member of Valpo's theology dept., died on Nov. 19, following complications from the covid virus.

While Dick had already retired when I arrived in '04, he still frequented the campus and attended theo dept. get-togethers and other events. For more than a decade, on most Friday afternoons, we made a point of rendezvousing at a local watering hole, initially at a place that served excellent martinis (Dick's favorite beverage on such occasions) and more recently at Ironwood Pub, just off campus. I learned so much from Dick through the years. (Out of the blue one afternoon, he gave me his volumes of an eighteenth-century edition of Gerhard's dogmatics, along with several other Lutheran classics.)  He was a true gentleman-scholar. IMO, he represented the best in the LCMS's mid-twentieth-century version of Christian-Lutheran humanism, informed by a path-opening exegesis of Valpo's psalmic motto (in luce tua videmus lucem), a tradition that has become thinner and thinner over the past fifty years.

Dick's father, Walter, was president of the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America from 1952 to 1956. He was also president of Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois from 1953 to 1958. Old-timers might have a copy of Walter's centennial history of the LCMS, A Century of Grace: Missouri Synod 1847-1947 (CPH, 1947).

In addition to teaching theology, Dick also taught in the law school. A lifelong scholar, he received his bachelor’s degree from St. Paul’s College in Concordia, Missouri, a master’s degree from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, and a doctorate in theology from the University of Chicago. So we had a few institutions in common. For many years, Dick was also an assistant pastor at Faith Lutheran Church, here in town, where he remained an active member in his retirement. (My first contact with him came by way of a phone call in '88. I was just starting my graduate studies at the U. of Chicago. Apparently, Norman Nagel had given Dick my name as a potential candidate for a call to Faith at that time. For several reasons that I will not mention here, I told him that I could not and should not be considered for their call list.) In addition to the U. of Chicago, Dick also studied at the universities of Hamburg and Erlangen. (He studied under Thielicke at the former and under Elert and Althaus at the latter. One of his closest friends was Ed Schroeder, a sem classmate and German-Lutheran fellow-traveler, who also has recently died.) Dick married his wife, Simone, in 1954, in her native Paris, France. (He once told me that, over the years, they were able to travel to every French protectorate in the world.)

Dick joined Valpo's theo dept. that same year, 1954. Twelve years later, Valpo's most influential president, O. P. Kretzmann, appointed Dick to be the founding dean of Christ College, our honors college. In 1979, Dick became vice president for academic affairs.

In his retirement, he authored several articles and three books, Flame of Faith, Lamp of Learning: A History of Valparaiso University, Witness to his Generation: Selected Writings of John Strietelmeier, and Keeper of the Dream: O.P. Kretzmann.

Our interim president put it just right this week in a notice to faculty, students, and alumni: "Professor Baepler’s faithful devotion to Valpo exemplified the spirit of the University in every way. Through his various positions, he modeled service and leadership to countless members of the University and surrounding community, and he will be deeply missed."

May Dick rest in God's peace, and may God's perpetual light shine upon him.

Matt Becker
« Last Edit: November 25, 2020, 12:51:08 AM by Mbecker »


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Re: Dr. Richard Baepler+ (1930-2020)
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2020, 08:57:48 AM »
That's a big loss. As a Christ College scholar who daughter just graduated last weekend as a Christ College scholar, I can attest that the Rev. Dr. Baepler's legacy has been a big blessing to many people. We pray that legacy lives on in this world long after the man who played a such a big role in bequeathing it has been called home.