Concordia Theological Seminary

Historical marker on former Concordia campus, dedicated July 23, 2014 (SCHS photo)

Historical marker on former Concordia campus, dedicated July 23, 2014 (SCHS photo)

Concordia Theological Seminary educated prospective Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod clergy from 1876 until 1975 1976 on a campus north and east of 12th and Carpenter streets in Springfield. (The Missouri Synod took over the facilities after Illinois State University, a Lutheran college unrelated to the present ISU, moved out of Springfield in 1870.)

A statue of Martin Luther is dedicated on the Concordia campus on May 26, 1957.*

A statue of Martin Luther is dedicated on the Concordia campus on May 26, 1957.*

The Springfield institution was set up from the beginning to emphasize “the practical aspects of kingdom service,” as opposed to the mission of the Synod’s St. Louis facility, which focused on the classical and theoretical aspects of ministry. Concordia students were expected to already have undergraduate degrees.

An anniversary program in 1965 estimated that Concordia Springfield had educated 3,500 Lutheran clergy by that point, with another 500 enrolled at the time.

The seminary’s dominant personality in its early years was the director, the Rev. Friedrich August Craemer. A history of Springfield’s Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, which was closely allied with Concordia for its entire existence, describes the Craemer regime:

Craemer

Craemer

Craemer controlled every aspect of the school. Every hour of the day, from the 5 a.m. rising to 10 p.m.  bedtime, was regulated. Weekly he would inspect each student’s living quarters and “woe to the hapless culprit whose bed was not made.”

His austerity reached legendary status — He pleaded several times with synod to cut back monies for his school; he refused any payment from Trinity; and he kept seminary household expenses to a point of poverty.

While he would on occasion exhibit his wrath, it often gave way to a heartfelt warmth and concern for the individual student. He never cancelled a class; and if he had to miss one for a Trinity funeral or some other function, the class was made up in the evening or on weekends.

Even after Craemer, Concordia set strict boundaries for its students. Students were finally allowed to have automobiles on campus in 1941, but even then only under the condition that they “were not to be used to cart girls around.”

Concordia, however, struggled with finances for its entire existence, and the Missouri Synod voted in 1975 to move the school to the Synod’s Fort Wayne, Ind., seminary. Concordia’s last Springfield classes were held in the spring of 1976.

The state of Illinois now uses the site as the training academy for Department of Corrections employees.

Correction and hat tip: This entry has been edited to correct the year when Concordia held its final classes in Springfield. Thanks to alum Roger Hotopp (see comments) for correcting our error. 

*Photo caption note: Trinity Lutheran’s church history dates the Martin Luther statue dedication as 1951. However, neither Nelson Howarth (Springfield mayor) nor Charles Carpentier (Illinois secretary of state), both of whom are in the photo, was in office in 1951. The dedication actually appears to have taken place in 1957.bridge

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6 Responses to Concordia Theological Seminary

  1. Rev. Mark DeLassus says:

    I write to you from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN.
    Our former site was in Springfield.
    Relative to the Luther statue and its date of dedication.

    Our records here and sited in our printed literature on our history give the date of May 26, 1957 which agrees with your same date.
    The statue was created by Friederich Adolf Soetebier of Germany. It stands 12 feet tall and weighs more than 2 tons.

  2. Marie says:

    My mom’s best friend was a cafeteria worker at Concordia. One day a young seminarian came through her line, she batted her eyelashes at him and they promptly fell in love. Unfortunately, the students were not allowed to have girlfriends back then so he was immediately expelled. They got married and had three sons.

  3. Pingback: Concordia Seminary History – Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne

  4. Roger Hotopp says:

    Thank you for a very good article by the Sangamonlink regarding my Alma Mater. It would have been nice to have a short sentence stating that the seminary relocated to Ft. Wayne in the summer of 1976 after the Spring semester. Rev. Roger A. Hotopp class of ’79.

  5. Kenneth Schroeder says:

    Interested in finding history for Rev. August M. Donner who came from Dresdan, Germany. He attended Seminary in Springfield, Ill around 1888 and possibly 2-3 years before. He arrived in states around 1884. Could you help with dates of attendance and/or pictures. We are lost as to the years attended and who his parents could be.
    K. Schroeder (Great Grandson)

    • editor says:

      Mr. Schroeder: I think your best bet is to contact the Central Illinois District of the Missouri Synod. It’s here in Springfield. I think the office has some records from Concordia, or at least can point you to places that might. Here’s the district website: http://www.cidlcms.org/. Good luck, and thanks for reading.

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