Story Magazine

First Quarter, 2005

David Tiede: Leader

Tiede installation, 1987: ALC Bishop David Preus (second from left) with Luther Presidents (left to right) Lloyd Svendsbye, 1975-1986, David Tiede, 1987-2005, and Alvin Rogness, 1954-1975.

One of the things that stands out for me is David's openness. The seminary sought input on the mission statement and the strategic plan as these were being drafted. He listens well to the board, the faculty, the students, and the donors. He communicates well about the trends and issues and what is being considered.

We thought ourselves very fortunate in 1987 to have David Tiede available to provide leadership as the next president of Luther Seminary. The results over these last 18 years have proven that [naming him as seminary president] was a good move. David has provided solid gospel leadership and has sought to keep the seminary abreast of the finest in confessional Lutheran teaching and learning. He is an outstanding theologian and first-rate biblical scholar, and he has a winsome personality. He led the seminary through the transition into the ELCA. That was not a simple task. He also has given leadership in difficult financial times and been instrumental in assembling great support for the seminary. David is deeply committed to the mission of the church and spreading the gospel.

- David Preus, former bishop of the American Lutheran Church, former director of Global Mission Institute

I was just out of college when Dad became president of the seminary. Luther Seminary has absolutely been his passion. I envy him because although I enjoy very much what I do, his job has been an essential part of his being. He really does feel a calling. We tease him that even when he is sleeping, he is wearing Luther Seminary pajamas. I'm not sure if such a thing exists, but if they were made, he would wear them. He does wear a Luther Seminary watch.

He has engrossed himself in his vocation as much as anyone I have ever seen anywhere because he is so passionate about that school and its broader role in the church. He talks with such conviction about the school and where it is going. It is wonderful to see somebody who feels that way about what they do. It is really, really core to who he is. Things have gone well there, and that has been very gratifying to him, particularly since he has such a passion for the place. I have gained an appreciation for that kind of passion. He sets a tremendous example in all kinds of ways.

- Peter Tiede, son, attorney

David has had a calling to a job perfect for him that he has loved every day. It has been all-consuming, but he believes in what he is doing, loves what he is doing. It really has been a life's work, serving Luther Seminary first as a New Testament professor and then as president. I have no regrets about how hard he has worked because if he had the chance, he would do it all over again. I am so grateful that David has had the opportunity to do this job because I think he was meant for it--for this time and this place.

- Muffy Tiede, spouse, curriculum consultant, retired educator

When David became president, he wrote to all of the alums asking them to send him their suggestions, and he got more than 500 letters. One of the major themes was "Stop preparing pastors for a church that no longer exists." What they were saying is that it is not Christendom anymore. People are not coming to church anymore just because they always did, and you at the seminary have to shape up. David really heard that before the rest of us got it. 

Very early in his presidency, he got a committee to work for several years on a new curriculum that would respond to this different situation where Lutheran pastors were almost feeling like missionaries. This new curriculum, put in place in 1993, was done with considerable involvement of the whole faculty, and about that same time we developed a new mission statement: "Luther Seminary educates leaders for Christian communities called and sent by the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to salvation through Jesus Christ, and to serve in God's world."

That emphasis on preparing persons for leadership for Christian communities focused our minds. David repeated it so often, we all got it memorized. Then the strategic planning process for 1995-2000 got us moving, and we had a more extensive planning process that created the strategic plan for 2000-2005, Serving the Promise of Our Mission. That probably made more of a difference than any single thing in my memory because it was detailed and specific and incredibly challenging.We had to say by the year 2005, we will have accomplished these specific things that we weren't doing yet, such as creating the Center for Lifelong Learning that was to be our primary point of contact with the larger church, and then Graduate Theological Education, which has us starting the Biblical Preaching Doctor of Ministry degree program and Congregational Mission and Leadership D.Min. and Ph.D. programs. They have both really taken off.

- Marc Kolden, professor of systematic theology, academic dean 1996-2003, Luther Seminary classmate of David Tiede

David Tiede helped transform the faculty enormously, making it more ecumenical and expanding the number of female faculty members. He was bold enough to take a risk on people he thought were really good and had a sense of mission... He pushed the faculty hard in the area of technology, and we have been blessed by his vision in that area. He also pushed us in working with congregations, and that has been a blessing. The seminary really has been transformed under his leadership.

- Sarah Henrich, associate professor of New Testament