100 Years of Service – A New Home

Speakers at the groundbreaking service. Dr. O.P. Kretzmann is second from the left.
Spectators at the groundbreaking for Deaconess Hall

On May 13, 1956, groundbreaking was held for a new Deaconess chapter house on the grounds of Valparaiso University. Dr. Eugene Bertermann, Director of The Lutheran Hour was the speaker and a Song Fest was held for the evening entertainment. The cornerstone was laid on June 2, 1957.

A description of Deaconess Hall from the dedication service: “Deaconess Hall, contemporary in design, modern in construction, expresses to all who pass its way that the students who dwell within are preparing themselves to serve their Savior. The dominant element on the exterior is the chapel. On the altar wall, a sculpture in limestone symbolizes Christian Women through the ages standing at the foot of the Cross, and particularly the Deaconess.”

“The Chi Rho, the Cross of Christ, is built into the building wall. The deaconess, leaving the building, looks to the Cross for strength and guidance as she serves humanity, guiding the child around the rocks of life, helping the sick and needy, assisting the parish pastor and the foreign missionary. William C. Severson, the sculptor, has this to say about his work: ‘Stone is not a substitute for the spirit that motivates a young woman to enter the service of Christ. It does provide a means of materializing an intangible, the dedication of the deaconess who serves Him. Symbology is the tool a sculptor uses to convey his meaning: The hands offered in service, the rock of trial and difficulty, the constant looking toward the Source of Strength in the Cross; these are the symbolic meanings of my work. I should like to call my statue the “Spirit of Love Eternal” and hope that through the medium of my art to have expressed my respect and admiration for the Deaconess.’”

“The letters Pi Delta Chi are from the Deaconess Coat of Arms. They mean “Faith and Service in Christ,”- the Deaconess Motto. As one enters the building, the main lounge with its cheery fire bids welcome to a home. This lounge, the center of group activity, is featured by a wall of glass on the south, a tile screen on the north and paneled walls of oak. It connects to the dining and recreation room. These rooms, de­ signed for multi-purpose use are divided from each other and the chapel by folding doors. The fireplace also serves the recreation area. These rooms open out on to a pleasant east terrace. The focal point of the Chapel is the simple altar, set in a recess, flanked by carved wood screens. One depicts women of the Bible, Phoebe, Priscilla, Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Bethany. The other, the modern deaconess helping the handicapped and active in Child Welfare Work, Mission Fields, and the Local Parish. Stained glass windows by Emil Frei of St. Louis depict the words of Christ, “I am the Vine, Ye are the Branches.” The brick walls, lined with oak benches and lighted by candles, the lectern and kneeling benches, and the acoustically treated ceiling all combine to ensure a reverent, churchly atmosphere.”

“The first floor also contains an office, housemother’s apartment, guest room, counseling room, and library. The kitchen is fully furnished with modern stainless steel equipment. About half of the first floor and the entire second and third floors are devoted to students’ rooms. Windows generally fill one entire wall. Ample closet space with shelving and cabinets to ensure their full utilization, hanging bookshelves, tack strips, colorful drapes, modern beds which make up into sofas for daytime use, and cheerful colors make the rooms pleasant and practical. Each floor contains a private prayer room and a lounge for informal relaxation. Toilet and bath

Worship in Deaconess Hall

facilities are first class in every respect, with colorful tile, marble showers, etc.”

“The basement contains service facilities, boiler room, laundry and trunk storage rooms and three practice rooms for piano. A large area of the basement will find use for recreation, workspace, and miscellaneous activities.”

“The building is of completely fireproof construction. It is built with a structural steel frame; concrete and steel floors with metal lath and plaster fireproof ceilings. All interior woodwork is oak. Walls of student rooms are painted masonry and plaster. Floors generally are covered with asphalt tile. The ceiling of the corridor and public rooms are acoustically treated. The exterior is of pink brick with limestone trim. Windows are aluminum and those on the south side are shaded with aluminum sunshades. Color accents are achieved with blue porcelain enamel. The heating system is oil fired hot water, with convectors being used in most rooms, and some areas being radiant heated. Materials have been selected for beauty, permanence, and ease of maintenance.”

Those participating in the dedication service: Rev. Martin Zschoche (preacher), Rev. Edgar Albers (liturgist and President, LDA), Rev. Arnold Krentz (officiant) and Mertice Spaude (choir director and pianist). The Pi Delta Chi deaconess student choir sang the Te Deum Laudamus and the Magnificat. Guests of Honor included: Dr. O.P. Kretzmann (President of Valparaiso University), Dr. Walter Lichtsinn (Third VP of the LCMS), Mrs. Arthur Preisinger (President of the LWML), and Dorothy Gohr (President of the Lutheran Deaconess Conference).

The dedicatory prayer read, in part: “we dedicate Deaconess Hall- God’s Hall-to His glory and to the service of souls redeemed by the Savior’s blood. We dedicate this Hall with its chapel, prayer nooks, dining room, kitchen, recreation room, student rooms, lounges, consultation room, parlor library, house director’s suite, and office to the service of our God and to the service of the Deaconess program within the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and affiliated Synods in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

A note in the service bulletin read: “With the erection of Deaconess Hall a new era is beginning for the Deaconess program within the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and affiliated Synods. With Deaconess Hall providing adequate and additional housing for seventy-four students more young women will be enrolling in the Deaconess Program and thus more deaconesses will be consecrated for service to their Savior and His Church. Two hundred eight young women have been consecrated from 1919 to 1957, under the sponsorship of the Lutheran Deaconess Association.”

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