The annual 50th reunion that takes place during Concordia University, Nebraska’s graduation weekend provides classmates the opportunity to reconnect after going their separate ways 50 years ago, starting their lives of service.
“We’ve all been in the same ministry together, even though, some people haven’t seen each other for 50 years,” said Christine (Meyer) Irmer, from Oceanside, California, who was back on campus for the Concordia Teachers College Class of 1969 Golden Reunion. “We’ve been doing the same thing, we’ve been touching lives—just in different places—with the same message of Jesus Christ.”
Irmer and her husband, Larry ‘70, were two of the more than 75 members (and spouses) from the Class of 1969 who came back home to Seward for the reunion. The Irmers met in the 10th grade at the Academy of California College, part of California Concordia College (1906-1973). They finished high school there and completed junior college before coming to Nebraska as junior college transfers.
“At the time, if you wanted to be a Lutheran teacher, your two options were Concordia Chicago or Concordia Nebraska,” Irmer said. “It seemed like a new world to me, a new adventure, so we went for it and it’s been great.”
Since the last time Irmer was on campus, many new buildings have been added or renovated and academic offerings have been expanded, but Concordia has held true to its mission of equipping men and women with a Christ-centered, Lutheran education.
“I’m absolutely grateful that the mission continues and there’s still such a strong message about Jesus,” Irmer said. “At that time, it was just teachers. Now, there are so many other colleges and departments as well.”
Martha ‘Marti’ (Krueger) ‘69 and Tom Mueller ’67 have been back on campus a handful of times for Tom’s 50th reunion and other events since their graduations. Before the couple left their home in Benbrook, Texas, Marti was visiting with a friends and learned that many other universities stopped holding 50th anniversary reunions, which made her feel especially thankful for Concordia’s annual event.
“It made me realize what a special effort Concordia is putting out to bring us back,” she said. “Chapel this morning was special, when you’re with the new graduates and our classmates.”
Seeing the new facilities is great, Tom said, but he’s also enjoyed seeing his friends and interacting with the new class of Concordia graduates. Marti said she’s proud of the investment people are making to make the campus competitive, with the new facilities and initiatives.
“It’s just fun to reconnect,” Tom said. “We were talking with four students in the lobby from different parts of the country and they had a lot of enthusiasm, they’re excited to be at Concordia. God has a plan for their lives, too.”
When Tom was a freshman coming to Concordia to play football, he showed up for two-a-days and didn’t visit the school ahead of time, but he knows when students now have that opportunity, they’ll see why Concordia is such an attractive university.
“Concordia attracts good people and there’s a reason for that,” he said. “They have a good academic program, it’s a good Christian university and when students visit they must be impressed and want to go to school here.”
Tom and Marti attended this year’s Sending Service, celebrating more than 80 Class of 2019 graduates who are going into professional church work. The service was different from the Communion Call Services in that graduates either already knew where they were going or were still working out the details of their assignment.
“It’s definitely something to be celebrated, when God calls you to a specific place” Marti said.
The Class of 1969, like many classes before them, would learn of their first Call in front of their fellow classmates. There were always a few exceptions, however, like in Tom and Marti’s case, as Tom, a Cleveland, Ohio native, was told he’d be going to Detroit by his football coaches on the way to a football clinic, and Marti knew she would join Tom in Detroit since the couple were engaged.
“My first day in Detroit, I was looking for a place to live, it was the first day of the riots in 1967,” Tom said. “The downtown was on fire. That was interesting. We found a home on the south side of Detroit down by a plant, there was a murder in the alley behind our house the first night we were there. I was thinking, ‘What are we doing?’”
Marti grew up in a small town in Oklahoma with about 7,000 people, so Detroit was a much larger city than what she was used to, but she was just excited to be with Tom, she said.
“I was assigned to a very much inner-city school,” Marti said. “I grew up in a small town, I was so naïve.”
From 1983-1992, Tom coached football at Texas Christian University in Dallas, where Jim Wacker, one of his former coaches at Concordia, was the head coach from 1983-1991.
“The influence of Concordia in our lives, we ended up going where we would spend most of our lives with people who started right here,” Tom said.
Similar to how Tom looked up to and developed deep connections with his coaches, he believes the way Concordia professors and coaches are making connections with their students is important.
“I think Concordia hires good people and I think they have an impact on students who are working with them,” he said. “Whether it’s athletics, or music, fine arts, what have you, it makes an impact. Students will always think highly of the people who have invested in their lives.