Big changes ahead for Waterloo Lutheran Seminary

Big changes are underway this summer at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros
Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Big changes are underway this summer at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.

Having operated for the past decade under the leadership of Reverend David Pfrimmer, the seminary’s long-time principal dean has put in his resignation.

“I’ve served two [terms] as principal dean, and that was 10 years, so I think I’ve a reached a point where I reached what I came to do,” said Pfrimmer.

Upon acceptance of the position of principle dean, Pfrimmer came already prepared with a vision of where he wanted to take the institution.

“He actually came to the interview process with a vision. Now a lot of that had to do with making the seminary, as he says, a ‘public seminary,’ which essentially means get out from behind the cloistered walls and get our voices heard in the general public arena,” said Marge Watters Knebel, former chair of the board of governors. “He’s spent the last 10 years doing just that — one initiative after another has supported that vision.”

Pfrimmer’s vision for a public seminary was one not solely embraced by the institution, but additionally by the religious denomination under which it operates.

“His most significant impact is … he has helped the seminary to claim a more public face and role. We describe ourselves as being a public seminary,” said bishop Michael Pryse, head of the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. “That is the challenge that David brought to the seminary when he entered this position, and it was a challenge that the board and the faculty embraced and I think we’ve done that really effectively.”

Along with the change in mentality at the institute has come a need for a change in physical space, with the seminary evaluating their differed maintenance and needed renovations at approximately $2.2 million. The building, originally built in 1963, has reached its “natural limit” for a lot of the internal workings.

“As part of that we’re also looking at how we can re-engineer the building to be much more of a kind of community and public space. We’re going to make it much for usable and kind of reflective of the student life we have now, which is different from in 1963,” Pfrimmer said.

As a result of the evolution the seminary has undergone, and the new found diversity of its academic offerings and programming, a name change proposition has been approved. The new name will be Martin Luther University.

“It’s a very positive direction, and it’s also a truthful one,” said Pryse. “If you say the word ‘seminary’ to most people I think they would have a really, really limited understanding of what the seminary is, and the term ‘university’ is much more descriptive of the breadth and scope of the programming that we do there now. This is a really positive development for us.”


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