Biblical scholar Walter A. Brueggemann ’55 is the latest recipient of the Niebuhr Medal, Elmhurst College’s highest honor, and the first alumnus to receive it.
Rev. Brueggemann was honored at a ceremony on October 23, along with three recipients of the College’s Founders Medal: the Honorable William J. Bauer ’49, Edwin E. Sprandel ’50, and the Siragusa Foundation.
Brueggemann is widely considered the foremost Christian scholar of the Old Testament. A United Church of Christ minister and professor emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, he is a prolific author, having published more than 100 books as well as numerous scholarly articles.
The Niebuhr Medal was established in 1995 to honor the brothers Reinhold and H. Richard Niebuhr, esteemed Elmhurst alumni and two of the 20th century’s most influential theologians. Brueggemann credits Elmhurst for inspiring his path to scholarship: Reading Moral Man and Immoral Society by Reinhold Niebuhr “changed everything,” he says.
Earlier in the day on October 23, Rev. Brueggemann and Elmhurst Chaplain H. Scott Matheney held a lively public conversation about the legacy of the Niebuhrs—in particular, their impact on Brueggemann’s life and work, and on the life of the College—during “Reflections with the Chaplain,” an event that drew a large audience to the Prospect Room of the Frick Center.
The Founders Medal, established in 1978, is given to those who further the mission of Elmhurst College through personal service and philanthropy.
William Bauer has enjoyed a distinguished judicial career. He has served on the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago since 1974, including a stint as chief judge between 1986 and 1993. He previously served as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. He is known for his sense of humor on the bench and his ability to bring even the most loquacious barrister’s argument to a conclusion.
Bauer also is dedicated to his alma mater, where he has served as a trustee since 1976. He has taught business law as an adjunct professor, spoken at Commencement and other college events, and endowed two scholarships.
Edwin Sprandel has been an asset to the Office of Development and Alumni Relations since retiring from a career in financial services, having worked at the Chicago Board of Trade and later at the brokerage firm Smith Barney. He assists the development team by contributing articles and ideas he finds by researching a variety of publications. In 2006, he established the Susan Sprandel Scholarship Fund in memory of his late wife. While it began as an annual scholarship, he soon endowed the fund to support full-time nursing students. Sprandel has served on the Alumni Cabinet and chaired his class reunion.
The Chicago-based Siragusa Foundation has been a longtime supporter of Elmhurst College. Established in 1950 by businessman Ross D. Siragusa, the foundation supports Chicago-area organizations in arts and culture, education, the environment, health and human services. The foundation has given more than $470,000 over 29 years in support of student scholarships at the College. An annual luncheon gives foundation leaders the opportunity to meet scholarship recipients.