Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Saying Goodbye to a Great Leader

"John Robert Strassburger, the President Emeritus of Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa., who served as president for more than 15 years, died early Wednesday Sept. 22, 2010. An American historian who dedicated his career to liberal education, he was born April 6, 1942, in Sheboygan, WI. He spent his childhood in Milwaukee, where he worked summers as a steel worker and machinist, and picked cauliflower."

(Read the rest of the article here)

Dear President Strassburger,

When I arrived at Ursinus College in August 2003, I was told that you were a president unlike any others.  Word around campus was that you knew students by name, that you regularly attended sporting events, concerts, performances, worship services and student events.  There was a rumor (which I can only believe is 100% true) that you read every since honors paper that was submitted by a graduating senior.

I'll be honest - I didn't think such a president existed.  I thought academic administration was all just a game of politics.  I could only assume that you were just another college administrator, worried solely about money, image and status.

I was wrong.

President Strassburger, I had my first lengthy conversation with you when I was a sophomore at Ursinus.  I had just preached for the first time at the campus chapel service and you came up to me as soon as the service was over to commend me on a job well done.  You said my name and acknowledged me in a way that I knew you cared about getting to know me.

For the next three years you were one of the biggest supporters of my ministry.  Week after week you attended chapel on campus and always said (and I believed you!) that you weren't working, this was your time to worship.  You e-mailed me personally when something I said in one of my sermons spoke to you.  You sought me out to tell me that I was one of the best student preachers you had ever heard - and I heard from numerous other faculty and staff members that had you shared similar sentiments with them as well.  You and Rev. Rice always made sure I had the opportunity to travel and attend conferences all around the country.  You asked me countless questions about my seminary applications and my eventual process of ordination.

Ministry and call aside, you gave me your time.  You would strike up conversations about my life in general when you were out running in the morning and I was bleary-eyed and stumbling to the gym before class.  You gave me your umbrella when I was running across campus in the rain.  You followed up with me about newspaper articles I had written and ate lunch with the other editors and myself to talk about what was happening on campus.

In short ... You cared.

When we graduated in 2007, you handed each of us our diploma during commencement.  When my name was called and I walked towards you on stage you had a big smile on your face as you said, "Congratulations Rev!"  At that moment, all I could do was smile.  Everyone on campus called Rev. Rice "Rev".  In relation with me, "Rev" sounded so foreign.

I think you would proud of how far I have come in my three years at seminary.  And one day I will be ordained, I will be called Reverend - and I guarantee that every time someone calls me that I will think of you.

My heart hurts today - for your family, for your friends, for the Ursinus community and for everyone who had the pleasure of knowing you.  We lost a wonderful man, leader and friend.

Thank you for your leadership, your compassion, your encouragement and your hospitality.  You will never be forgotten.

Rest in Peace,

1 comment:

  1. Sarah, thanks for posting this. I hope Trudy gets a copy sooner or later.


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