Tribute to Philip Krey ends with ‘one more thing…’
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It was an event, a tribute to the Rev. Dr. Philip D.W. Krey, retired president of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), that ran a bit long. But nobody seemed to mind.
The tribute took place in a packed Benbow Hall of The Brossman Learning Center, a structure on the footprint of the seminary’s “Old Dorm” that was a construction highlight of Krey’s 15-year tenure as LTSP’s president. Fittingly, he was presented a unique painting of the structure rendered by local artist Clarissa Shanahan. The work of art, presented by faculty member Katie Day, was a gift of the entire seminary community. The celebration on the afternoon of Thursday, October 16, preceded the 150th Anniversary Gala Banquet that took place that evening at the Ballroom at the Ben, 9th and Chestnut Streets in downtown Philadelphia, a short distance from where the seminary was founded in 1864.
Speakers included the Rev. William B. Moore, pastor of Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, who paid tribute to Krey for his loyalty for and support of the Urban Theological Institute (UTI). Moore, a 1984 UTI graduate, chairs the UTI Committee of Advisors. Moore noted that it is said that any institution is shown through the shadow of the individual that leads it. “And Dr. Krey has cast a long shadow for which we are much obliged,” he said. “Thank you for all you have done for the seminary, for young people, and those young at heart … Whatever activities were held on behalf of UTI, Phil was always there, no matter what community the activity was a part of.”
Daughter the Rev. Dr. Jessicah Krey Duckworth, a Lilly Endowment executive and seminary alumna, traced heartwarming memories of the households of her parents and grandparents as she described personal aspects of family life. She cited two songs that characterize her personal memories, “Jesus Loves Me” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” “Our family loves Jesus and loves baseball,” she said. “And talking.” She recalled discussions about challenging theological issues in the household kitchen and storytelling and laughter during meals. Sometimes arguing for hours in conversations that reflected the family’s persistence and tenacity.
The Rev. Dr. Michael Cooper-White, president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, said he imagined himself to be “one of the few in the room who knew Phil BR [Before now-wife René]. During our first year [at Gettysburg as seminarians], Phil began showing up at parties with this young, dashing blonde congressional aide.” Cooper-White recalled the decades of their lives in the church together, Krey’s inaugural address 15 years ago, and how one evening in Chicago the phone rang, and it was Krey asking to speak to Cooper-White’s spouse Pamela about a position on the faculty, where she served for nine years. He discussed Krey’s record of service and his role in founding and then being president of the Eastern Cluster of Lutheran Seminaries, citing Krey as “a champion of theological education.”
The Rev. Dr. Katie Day recalled Krey’s early years as a young faculty member. “I was young then too!” she remarked to laughter. Day remembered the Krey household, barbecues and hot dogs, and babysitting the Krey children did for “my kids.” She reflected on many kinds of challenges, one of the toughest times being the tragic death overseas of one-time faculty member Michael Moeller. Citing Jeremiah 29:7, she remarked extensively about Krey’s lasting legacy of commitment to the city and “this city of Philadelphia.” When Krey became president she gave him a gift of a pendant cross featuring a cityscape of Philadelphia on the cross arm as viewed from Camden. She spoke movingly of how Christ “embraces the city with its schools trouble, poverty, and gun violence. But Christ is not just here in the midst of problems, but also as part of the city’s giftedness, creativity, energy, and good ideas, its musical rhythms and murals.” She praised Krey for his presence and passion and volunteer involvements regarding city life and his encouraging of seminarians to develop their own models for urban ministry. She also expressed gratitude for his taking down a seminary wall and establishing a public plaza along Germantown Avenue, thus removing a boundary to the community. Paraphrasing Jeremiah, Day said that “only in seeking the well-being and peace for the city, only in praying shalom for the city, only that way can we find our own shalom …”
Krey responded to the tribute by saying, “My heart is so full.” He extensively thanked the speakers, staff, faculty, and students, reserving primary thanks for his spouse, René Diemer Krey, who carries on as the seminary’s registrar. “She is always ahead of me,” he said.
Krey introduced family attendees and expressed deep thanks to myriad family members present.
“We do multicultural and cross-cultural ministry here not because it is the thing to do. As Ferguson (MO) has told us, Christian community needs work. The Gospel motivates us all to be friends to each other.
“And one more thing,” Krey said in quoting a favorite phrase of his. “I want you all to pledge to President Lose the same level of support as you have done for me. He is now the steward of this school.”
The Rev. Dr. Karl Krueger, LTSP Professor of the History of Christianity and director of the Krauth Memorial Library, was emcee. LTSP President David Lose gave the opening prayer, and Dr. Addie J. Butler, who served as member and president of the seminary trustee board during Krey’s presidency, gave the closing prayer.
Listen to the ceremony (mp3 audio):
View a slide show of the event (click any image to go to the gallery)