Much of the following history is excerpted from a paper written by Deaconess Wilma Kucharek in 1976 for a course at Valparaiso University, taught by Professor James Albers.
In 1958, student enrollment was seventy-four students; already the new Deaconess Hall was filled to capacity. Meanwhile, new changes were taking place in the educational program. Dr. Lawrence Hess, Personnel Consultant for the LDA, set up a battery of six tests and personality inventories for evaluating applicants to the LDA’s training program. The results were to be used as an aid in the “evaluation, selection, promotion, and placement of personnel.” In reference to these tests, the LDA felt that “the administration of these tests and inventories is a progressive step in our educational program.”
To give the Executive Director, Rev. Arnold Krentz, some assistance with the teaching and counseling of deaconess students, Rev. Kenneth F. Korby of the Theology Department of Valparaiso University was named Resident Counselor by the Board of Directors of the LDA. His responsibilities included teaching the course, “The Field of Deaconess Work,” as well as “giving needed counsel to all deaconess students as related to their academic and training requirements at Valparaiso University.”
Rev. Arnold Krentz, died March 15, 1961, after an extended illness. Rev. Walter C. Gerken, Assistant Executive Director of the LDA became Executive Director. At the same time, a newly created position, Director of Training, was filled by the Rev. Arne P. Kristo. His responsibilities included: “supervising the fieldwork program of the LDA; establishing a closer liaison with the deaconess students at Junior colleges; advising the deaconess students at the University, and other duties cognizant with the training program.”
In 1963 the deaconess-nurse program changed. In the past, a nurse could become a deaconess by completing one year of study in the Theology Department of Valparaiso University. Now it was necessary that a student complete the requirements for the B.A.degree with a major in Theology.
The year 1963 also saw the resignation of the house director, Deaconess Clara Strehlow. Deaconess Edith Hovey accepted the position of Deaconess in Residence in Deaconess Hall. Her responsibilities included assisting the Director of Training “in developing motivation for, and understanding of, the diaconate among future deaconesses.” She was responsible for the student organization, Pi Delta Chi, and developing the Field Work Program by which practical experience is gained along with classroom work. The Lutheran Deaconess stated that “the partnership of Deaconess in Residence and the Director of Training would provide deaconess students with a visible demonstration of the kind of partnership in which they will later function as deaconesses.” Deaconess Hovey held this position until 1966.
In 1963, due to its financial situation, the LDA was forced to make a plea for support. Contributions from congregations, individuals and organizations were not enough to cover the needs of the program. This was due not only to the growing needs of the program itself but also to the large budget which was needed to support multiple staff as well as unexpected expenses. On February 15, 1963, letters were sent to all the pastors in the Missouri Synod presenting the facts of the financial situation and asking them to approach their congregations on our behalf and ask for help.
Beginning in 1957, the College of Presidents of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod was responsible for placing graduates and also (beginning in 1961) interns. In 1964, the College of Presidents of the LC-MS authorized the LDA to place students for their internship year directly, however, graduates were still assigned through the Synodical placement procedure each spring. The consecration of deaconess students was authorized only if the graduate had accepted a position recognized by the LDA as a deaconess position.
In 1967 the Rev. Gerken accepted a call to the parish ministry. Rev. Arne Kristo assumed the additional executive responsibilities relating to recruitment, counseling, and placement of deaconesses. He later accepted the call to become Executive Director of the Association and was installed on January 17, 1969.
The Fort Wayne office of the LDA was closed on June 15, 1969, and moved to Valparaiso. The Rev. Kristo and the Board were also at work on the task of building the staff of the Association. The
LDA Board authorized a deaconess staff assistant as well as a director of public relations and development. Deaconess Helen Haase became the staff deaconess with responsibilities “in the areas of strengthening the base of financial support for the Association and in public relations.”
During the year 1967, the LDA again made an appeal for funds to the Missouri Synod. Before the Synod would take any action on this appeal, it suggested that the LDA submit an independent study report. This was to include the LDA’s history, structure, program and financial status. It consisted of two parts: a statistical paper written by E.H. Albers concerning the LDA, and a study of the LDA’s structure and program by Frederick Weiser.
This report was to set the stage for the future of the deaconess program and the LDA’s relationship with the LC-MS