Story Magazine

Fall, 2011

Wendell Frerichs: No retiring from the call

by Tracy Behrendt, Correspondent

In the memories of many of his former students, Wendell Frerichs was an exceptional professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary. But, in his mind, Frerichs is better at working than retirement.

"I began in 1958, retired in 1995 and continued to teach a couple of courses until 2003," Frerichs said. "Then I went into retirement, which I have flunked. But I'm very glad for that."

Frerichs' life hasn't slowed down any since his time as a professor. His volunteer work remains just as important as his 40-plus years of teaching at Luther. Like many emeritus faculty members, he has remained a steady presence on campus since his retirement. And he feels volunteer work is just one small way to repay Luther for all that the seminary and faculty have given him.

"I consider it one of life's greatest blessings that I was called to teach at Luther," Frerichs said.

Frerichs began his career at Luther as a student, graduating with his Bachelor of Theology degree in 1951. After being ordained that same year, he served as a parish pastor for five years in Stevens Point, Wis., and Cleveland. It was then that John Milton, a Luther professor of Old Testament, encouraged Frerichs to study in Basel, Switzerland, with Walther Eichrodt, an Old Testament theologian. After two years of residency toward a Doctor of Theology degree, Frerichs returned home. That's when Luther Seminary called, offering him a position as assistant professor of Old Testament.

Since that first year in 1958, Frerichs has taught not only Old Testament but also classes on prayer and biblical perspectives on aging—both of which he continued after his retirement until 2003. Prayer, in particular, has been an important part of his life since the 1960s, when a visiting professor challenged Frerichs and other faculty to commit to pray for the student body every day.

"For more than 40 years, I remembered to pray daily for students and staff using the directory," he said. "I continue to pray for my retired colleagues, faculty, former students and family to this day."

In addition to praying daily for the Luther community, Frerichs edits Luther's Advent and Lenten devotionals and God Pause, a daily email devotional, which he still picks up weekly in paper form to proofread at home. He also donates books regularly to the Lutheran International Library Assistance Project, which sends books to seminaries and colleges around the world. Frerichs has also occasionally led chapel services on campus when asked and helped establish the alumni/ae-in-residence program at Luther.

Also close to Frerichs' heart has been the yearly observation of Yom Hashoah, a day of remembrance of the Holocaust.

"Some of my very dearest friends in life have been Jewish rabbis, so I am very committed to bothering people to make sure they don't forget to hold a remembrance service at Luther," which has been held for more than 40 years.

Although his retirement has been a little busier than most, Frerichs doesn't foresee himself slowing down anytime soon.

"If they get tired of my proofreading, I suppose I'll give it up. But I enjoy doing it," he said. "I tell people when they ask why I'm doing all these things that God didn't give me a term call, but it's something that is lifelong."