Story Magazine - Second Quarter, 2006
Luther Seminary this spring lost Accounting Director Jon Anttila, a man with a mind for numbers and a heart for those around him. He died April 13 while surrounded by family members who were called to the hospital to be with him.
Anttila worked in accounting for the seminary since 1981. Colleagues recall his compassion and tireless work in an online memory book on the seminary's Web site www.luthersem.edu/memorybook/anttila.
"He helped all of us be better at our work," wrote Kathy Hansen, vice ,president for Seminary Relations and executive director of the Luther Seminary Foundation. "His amazing memory was a tremendous asset not only in his professional work in the business office, but also in keeping the rest of us up-to-date on our colleagues' birthdays and anniversaries as well as on arcane baseball stats."
Anttila shared a positive attitude despite lifelong health issues. And despite working behind the scenes, he was a blessing for recent graduate John S. Flomo Jr., who last fall had been denied registration for his final year as an M.A. student when his sponsor failed to pay his bill and he suddenly owed $13,000.
"I would have had to go back home without achieving what I came for," said Flomo, who hopes to start a Christian university in his native Liberia. He was directed to Anttila, who reassured him that God would complete what he started in his life.
"He then stood up and held my Flomo recalled. "He prayed for my financial situation." Anttila then took Flomo to the registrar's office to allow his bill to be paid later. And it was.
James H. Burtness
Jim Burtness' teaching career at Luther Seminary lasted more than 40 years. And with great thanks to God, his students continue to carry his lessons into the world.
A professor emeritus of systematic theology, Burtness died April 10 from injuries received in a serious fall in January. More than 120 people have celebrated him as a teacher, speaker, colleague and friend at his online memory book on Luther Seminary's Web site www.luthersem.edu/ memorial/james_burtness.asp.
Burtness' primary work was in Christian ethics, but he was best known for his scholarship of the life and works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Students recall his energetic teaching and conversations that often stretched into the home he shared with his wife, Dolores. And they relish his enduring friendships. For many, Burtness was their favorite teacher at Luther Seminary or even the reason why they came here.
"I thank God for Dr. Burtness," wrote Lauryl Ivers Stockness, '96, Ellsworth,Wis. "He opened my mind to other viewpoints and helped me clarify my own. He helped me articulate what living like Christ means. I will not forget his kind and wise guidance; it has shaped my life and ministry."
Early students remember Burtness' impact right from the start at Luther Seminary. After graduating with a B.Th. degree there, he began in 1955 as an instructor in New Testament Greek and systematic theology. He became an assistant professor in 1960, was named a full professor in 1972 and retired in 1998.
Among his worldwide journeys, Burtness' first sabbatical in 1966 was spent in Berlin with students who knew Bonhoeffer. He also held a B.A. degree from St. Olaf College,Northfield, Minn., and a doctorate in theology from Princeton Seminary. Ordained in 1958, he served pastorates in Oregon, Minnesota and Colorado.
Marc Kolden, '66, who was his student and later a fellow systematic theology faculty member for more than 20 years, recalled how Burtness stood up for his sometimes-disputed theological views and confronted those of others.
"He was a supportive and interesting colleague, not least because of his indefatigable theological curiosity," wrote Kolden. "But he could also seem like a pain because he was a stickler for doing things well, for attending to all the ways faculty were expected to study and teach and help to shape students, and for allowing every faculty member to have his/her say in every decision and debate."
Olaf K. Storaasli
Since Olaf K. Storaasli's death on May 16, past students, colleagues and friends have celebrated the professor emeritus as a gentle but gigantic presence in New Testament teachings at Luther Seminary and in mission at home and abroad.
Storaasli, '41, taught at Luther Seminary from 1960 to 1986 as a scholar of Johannine and Pauline literature. Ardent supporters of global mission, he and his wife, Lila, traveled extensively and led faculty members and students through the Middle East.
He was a "teacher, mentor and friend," wrote Robert Burmeister, '76, Roseville, Minn. "In his quiet way and by his example he modeled the grace and truth of his Lord Jesus, and from Hisfullness flowing through Olaf we have received grace upon grace." These are among thoughts expressed in an online memory book on the Luther Seminary Web site www.luthersem.edu/memorial/olaf_storaasli.asp.
Luther Seminary faculty members who were once Storaasli's students noted his model of commitment and careful study and his encouragement toward faculty since his retirement. The professor emeritus of New Testament is also remembered for later roles--including as a resource for international students with their thesis-writing and as a founder of the Hospitality Center for the Chinese in St. Paul.
"I believe Olaf was the kindest person I ever met or worked with. He was truly a gentle man," shared President Emeritus Lloyd Svendsbye. Storaasli attended Waldorf College and St. Olaf College, where he received his B.A. degree in 1937. He earned the Bachelor of Divinity degree from Luther Seminary in 1941, the Master of Theology degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1942, and his doctorate from Temple University, Philadelphia, Pa., in 1944.
Storaasli first served as an ordained minister in Philadelphia and as a pastor, professor and seminary president in Saskatoon, Canada. He helped the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada gain independence--after returning to St. Paul, he was elected president of the Canadian church but declined with the belief that a Canadian should lead it.
Emphasizing the importance of mission was always part of Storaasli's work. "Anyone studying New Testament is introduced to the spread of the church through the book of Acts," he said in 2001. "You can't read the Bible without thinking about mission."