Hanna H. Schade, a force in the life of Elmhurst College and an active member of the Elmhurst community for more than half a century, died on January 19.
She was seven days shy of her 101st birthday.
Mrs. Schade was a longtime member of St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Elmhurst and was active with the Auxiliary of Elmhurst College, the Auxiliary of Good Samaritan Hospital and the Elmhurst Women’s Club. She came to Elmhurst in 1946 with her husband, Dr. Rudolf G. Schade, who would become a legendary professor at the College, teaching Greek, philosophy, logic and history until 1974. He died in 2000.
Mrs. Schade played a significant role in supporting her husband’s work and in nurturing Elmhurst students over several decades.
“She had a huge impact on the College,” said Elmhurst’s chaplain, the Rev. H. Scott Matheney. “She was a strong, smart woman and a ‘great mother’ to the campus, a matriarchal figure who helped build a sense of family and community here.”
Born Hanna Krause, Mrs. Schade grew up in New York City, where she met her future husband in 1932. Dr. Schade was then pursuing studies at Columbia University and living under the auspices of the pastor of Ridgewood Baptist Church in Queens.
“We met in church,” Mrs. Schade told Elmhurst’s Prospect magazine in a 2000 interview. “I guess that’s a good place to meet your husband.”
They married in 1934 and as Mrs. Schade later put it, “I became a minister’s wife.” She took pride in her role as a confidant to the women of her parish, who appreciated her talent for listening sympathetically and her disinclination to gossip.
When Dr. Schade, at the urging of his teacher, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, accepted a faculty post at Elmhurst in 1946, both he and Mrs. Schade had doubts about embarking on what they called “our western adventure.” Mrs. Schade had never been west of New Jersey, and she imagined Elmhurst as a lonely prairie outpost. The couple agreed they would give the College a try, but promised each other they would return east within five years.
Their plans changed. Both were quickly welcomed at Elmhurst and both made immediate impacts on their new home.
“The people were different,” Mrs. Schade later said of Elmhurst. “They were friendly and open. The longer we stayed, the more it became our home.”
Dr. Schade established himself as a beloved teacher and mentor to his students. Mrs. Schade hosted many students in the family’s home, and supported the College through volunteer work.
She also tried to help her German-born husband adjust to American life. In an effort to soften his (by then locally famous) German accent, Mrs. Schade bought a tape recorder and instructed her husband to speak into it, then played it back so he could hear his speaking voice for himself. The professor did as instructed, but always insisted that he detected no accent at all.
“She played an important part in helping Rudolf Schade become the iconic figure he has become,” Matheney said. “There was such a spark between them.”
When Mrs. Schade spoke at a Homecoming tribute to Dr. Schade at Elmhurst in 1984, it was a rare moment in the spotlight for a woman who preferred to direct attention to others.
“She didn’t want attention,” recalled her son, Rudolf G. Schade Jr., an Elmhurst trustee. “She wanted that event to be about Dad, not about her. She never liked to be out front or in the limelight. There was a graciousness about her, a dignity.”
In addition to her son, Mrs. Schade is survived by four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Her daughter, Ellen Schade ’79, predeceased her.