John Kaufmann: Continuing to serve LTSP

 JOHN KAUFMANN: For 44 years, much more than a registrar and still going strong: In May, he celebrated the 65th year of his ordination. He still comes to work most days...

The Rev. Dr. John Kaufmann

FOR 44 YEARS The Rev. Dr. John A. Kaufmann served The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) as registrar, keeping track of seminarians and their records of academic and personal progress from 1946 to 1990.

But that doesn't begin to tell the whole story. Dr. Kaufmann observed the 65th anniversary of his ordination in May and turns 90 years of age this coming February, and for many of those years fulfilled a wide variety of "other" duties. From 1944 to 1952, he assisted Dr. Fred Nolde in Christian Education instruction. He oversaw the refectory food service. He managed buildings and grounds maintenance including construction and repair projects. He served as treasurer, preparing budgets for the school. He handled public relations, including tours, edited the Seminary Bulletin (now PS magazine). He served in effect as bursar - filling an accounting role, processing bills, managing payroll records and tax forms. Kaufmann assisted the president in faculty matters, held the post of alumni liaison, and related to syn-ods. For many years he handled admissions too. Whew! These responsibilities today are divided up and managed by a consider- ably larger staff. Once, Kaufmann was one of only four administrators.

And today, John Augustus Kaufmann still works for LTSP, fulfilling special assignments for president Philip D.W. Krey and serving as assistant secretary of the LTSP Board of Trustees.Kaufmann pooh-poohs all the responsibilities he once juggled. "When I saw something that needed to be done I just did it," he said. "You have to remember the seminary was a far less complicated place in those days. Now, far more challenges are imposed from the outside - accreditation and federal and state forms. It is not as simple as it once was. If I saw a light bulb needed to be changed we didn't fill out a form. I just did it. In effect, I was on call seven days a week."

A graduate of both Lehigh University (BA History, 1941, Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and LTSP (1944), Kaufmann maintained, until not so many yearsago, that mindset of doing what it takes. A staffer on a Saturday would see him carry- ing a ladder to perform chores around the campus. Anecdotes abound. Alumna Laura Csellak, now a pastor in Easton, Pennsylvania, recalls the evening seminarians placed a sheet bearing the face of a jack-o-lantern over the Library clock on Halloween. Ever vigilant, Kaufmann quickly saw the prank and removed the sheet. "I always kept a special eye out dur- ing holidays and special occasions," he recalls with a smile. "The trouble was the sheet got caught up in the clock hands. It would have burned out the motor inside." Years later, Kaufmann made a donation to replace the clock's complex and difficult- to-maintain mechanism with a simpler digital device. "Not many people are around these days to repair tower clocks like ours," he said.

Kaufmann retraces several life milestones that led him to seminary service and beyond. Reserve Officer Training Corps study was required at Lehigh, and in the late 1930s, Kaufmann greatly enjoyed theprogram’s study of European and World War I history. A teaching officer urged him to apply for advanced ROTC study, likely leading him to become a military officer. “I flunked the physical,” he recalled. The military officer, frustrated by the outcome, urged him to take it again. “I flunked the second time too. I often won- der what would have happened in my life had I passed.” Wondering what to do with his training, his father Harry, Pastor M. LeRoy Wuchter (Atonement Lutheran Church in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, where Kaufmann went to church) and his father’s cousin, seminary professor, and later president, Paul Hoh, persuaded him to undertake seminary study. A second milestone: Kaufmann thought he would accept a call to a small congregation and continue graduate studies when, in 1946, he was unexpectedly invited to be seminary registrar and treasurer. The third per- sonal milestone he identifies came in 1986 when seminary president John Vannorsdall initiated a measure, approved by the Board, that would permit Kaufmann and his wife, Doris, to remain in their campus home after his retirement in 1990. “That was a very telling step,” he explained. “That I have been able to remain on campus all of these years is why I believe I am still alive, why I am here today. It gave me purpose, something to do. I have served under nine of the seminary’s 11 presidents. All of them have been exceedingly generous to me.” His wife and one of his two sons, Alan, died in 1993. A son, Bruce, resides in a community living arrangement in Northeast Philadelphia.

Favorite seminary memories? Kaufmann cites the many lay leaders who undertook projects over the years - especially the work of the Women’s Auxiliary with leaders like Catharine Reed and Elizabeth Hagan, and men stalwarts like Peter Paul Hagan, Claude Wagoner, and Robert Blanck, who chaired the Trustees for decades and still serves as a Trustee. “They all showed great leadership and dedication to the school,” he said. “They were marvelous.”

Kaufmann professes that he worries about the future of the church. “Many of the most successful congregations today seem to be non-denominational mega- churches, dependent on the charismatic personality of their pastors,” he said. “When the pastor leaves the church tends to go downhill.” The denominational structures succeeding the former United Lutheran Church in America have become more centralized in recent decades, he said. As a result, synods and many local church expressions have lost influence, he believes, “and that has taken people away from many local area activities that used to flourish, and so people don’t relate to local institutions the way they once did.”

He also empathizes with today’s emerg- ing professional leaders. “There was a time when pastors engaged in preaching, teaching and visiting ministries were looked up to by the entire community, by members and non-members of churches alike,” he recalls. For example, he remembers a pastor who would receive a call from the local telegraph office whenever a soldier from the community was killed overseas in war. And the pastor would go to the family home to express sympathy and support re- gardless of whether the family was related to the pastor’s congregation.

“It’s so different today,” he said. “So many influences such as technology and other distractions detract from the church’s once prevalent social order. It is really an enigma for pastors to know how to deal with such challenges.”

His advice to pastors? “Make sure you really get to know your people,” he said. “Do for them what they are not able to do for themselves. I worry sometimes that we are part of a dying business, but these things also go in cycles.Technologycanbe seen as a negative unless we know how to deal with it.”

Reflecting back over the years, he recalls enjoying such challenges as relating to The Brossman Learning Center and Wiedemann contractors, who leaned on him for his razor-sharp knowledge of the semi- nary’s operational infrastructure to ease their way with construction challenges. He played a major role in key construction meetings, assisting greatly with problem-solving.

“I always seemed to find time to do what was needed,” he said with a smile. “Sometimes I wish I could have done more. But except for a few health problems here and there, I really don’t feel so very different now than I did when I was 60 or 50 or 40.” +

 “John has been invaluable as an adviser and sage to presidents because he has kept the history of the school's records so carefully he can spread a range of options before the president, faculty, and board. His records and role have always relativized any one person or group that has wanted to fix the school’s future in the recent past.This has been most helpful.” - President Krey