Wartburg Castle - Eisenach - Gift to Conrad Bergendoff



    Oil on Canvas - Erwin Weber


This painting of the Wartburg Castle was my gift to Conrad Bergendoff, president emeritus of Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. Bergendoff was born on December 3, 1895, in Shickley, Nebraska. His father was a minister, who moved his family to Connecticut where Conrad received a classical education that included four years of Latin and two years of German in high school. He graduated from Augustana in 1915 at age 19, earned his MA and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He studied at the University of Uppsala in Sweden and University of Berlin in Germany, worked as an assistant to Nathan Söderblom, the Archbishop of Sweden, became pastor of Salem Lutheran Church, the oldest Lutheran congregation on Chicago's south side.

Bergendoff became dean of the Augustana Theological Seminary in 1931, was president of both the college and the seminary from 1935 to 1948 and continued as college president until 1962. During his tenure as president, the college prospered although there were the Depression years, the war years, the Cold War years, even the Vietnam years. The student body and faculty more than doubled. New buildings were erected, and the college's endowment, library, and reputation for academic excellence all grew. However, Bergendoff was more than a good president. He ministered, as well as administered. He made chapel attendance a requirement and delivered more than 1,000 "sermon" which has a penetrating and lasting influence on the faculty and the students. Most students knew they were hearing something special, for they were in the presence of greatness. For this reason he has been honored by students as well as scholars in this country and abroad. Among them are high officials of the church and state, including students colleagues, rabbis, pastors, bishops, archbishops, ambassadors, and even kings.