"Life of Bergendoff"

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    90-minute PowerPoint slide show (with sound) - Erwin Weber - August, 2002

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Dr. Conrad Bergendoff
(1895 - 1997)

Augustana's Old Main
Rock Island, Illinois

Stockholm Lutheran Church
Shickley, Nebraska

 

 

 

Trinity Catholic Church in
New York City

The Cathedral in Lund,
was begun in 1100 AD

St. Nicholas Church in
Moscow, Russia 

This 90-minute PowerPoint slide presentation concentrates on the life and work of  Dr. Conrad John Emanuel Bergendoff.  He was born in Shickley, Nebraska, on December 3, 1895.  His father, Carl August, came from Sweden at 21 years of age.  He studied at Augustana College and Theological Seminary in Rock Island, Illinois and became pastor at Stockholm Lutheran Church in Shickley.  Conrad attended grade school and high school in Middletown, Connecticut.  Because of his superb record, he could have attended any Ivy-League school along the Eastern Seaboard, but he chose Augustana College in  Rock Island, the school of his father.  After graduation, Bergendoff continued his studies in New York City and Philadelphia where he earned  a Masters Degree in English.  In New York City, he witnessed the establishment of the United Lutheran Church in America.  Although Augustana did not join the merger, Bergendoff devoted his life to unification of all Lutherans.  He then returned to Rock and received his Divinity Degree.  Thereafter he married Gertrude Carlson from Rockford, Illinois.  She was his faithful companion for more than one-half a century.  Wracked with pain from arthritis, Gertrude died in his arms a week before their 57th wedding anniversary. Conrad died 18 years later still wearing his wedding ring.  

When Bergendoff was building a new church on the South Side of Chicago in the early 20s, he met Nathan Söderblom, Archbishop of Sweden.   Söderblom was so impressed with the young pastor, that he invited Conrad Bergendoff  to study for his dissertation at the Universities of Uppsala and Lund, Sweden.  Soon after his arrival in Sweden, the Archbishop asked Bergendoff to accompany him as his personal secretary to Bern, Switzerland  to participate in an ecumenical meeting.   The meeting was so successful, that Bergendoff decided to devote his life to the unification of all Christians, namely, working together under the motto, "Doctrine Divides, but Service Unites." After earning his doctorate at the University of Chicago, Bergendoff became President of the Augustana College and the Seminary in 1935 and retired in 1962 when he traveled to the Soviet Union to meet with the Orthodox clergy in Kiev, St. Petersburg, and Moscow.   During his tenure as president of the college, it was difficult to raise funds during the Depression years.  The college almost lost its accreditation.  After a much needed Science building was erected on campus not only was accreditation  restored but Augustana received a Phi Beta Kappa chapter.  Later Bergendoff negotiated for the acquisition of the Davis estate with its House on the Hill.  It increased the campus by 50%.  He also raised funds to build Westerlin Hall dormitories for women, Centennial Hall, the Bergendoff Fine Arts Center and Erickson Field Stadium.   Bergendoff was physically and scholarly very active.  He and Gertrude were members of the Black Hawk Hiking Club since 1938.  He walked numerous trails in the Mississippi and Rock River Valley.  He has more than 200 entries in the Library catalog section.  They include essays, pamphlets and books and letters.  He was  member of several civic organizations including the Rotary Club and Kiwanis Club.  In addition, he received numerous honorary doctor degrees;  he was a Decorated commander of the Order North Star 1st class, and recipient of the Carl Sandburg Medal to name a few.  A year before his death on December 23, 1997, dignitaries throughout the world visited Dr. Bergendoff.  They included the Archbishop of Sweden, Gunnar Weman, and The King and Queen of Sweden.