Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Rev Dr. John Kaufmann has died

(scroll down to read and enter memories of Dr. Kaufmann)

A memorial service for Dr. Kaufmann is planned during the Spring 2010 Alumni Convocation. More information is at

See the related story $2 million gift by longtime registrar John Kaufmann ’44 largest in seminary's history from March 1, 2010.

The Rev. Dr. John A. Kaufmann, who for 44 years served The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) as registrar, keeping track of seminarians and their records of academic and personal progress from 1944 to 1990, died December 5, 2009 at age 89. He resided on the seminary campus in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia.

Until illness recently slowed him down, John Augustus Kaufmann could still be found most days in his office on the third floor of the seminary's Hagan Administration Building, fulfilling special assignments for seminary President Philip D. W. Krey. A graduate of Lehigh University (B.A. History 1941 Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and LTSP (1944), Dr. Kaufmann observed the 65th anniversary of his ordination in May 2009. Remembering Dr. Kaufmann, President Krey noted, "At the beginning of my presidency, John asked if he could continue his service and made a pledge that he never broke. 'I will speak my mind in the privacy of your office, and even work you over,' he told me, 'but once you make a decision, I will never contradict you in public.' His advice was indispensable and not once did he break his pledge. We have lost a great friend."

While his official title was Registrar, for many of his 44 years at LTSP Dr. Kaufmann fulfilled a wide variety of “other” duties. He oversaw the refectory food service. He managed buildings and grounds maintenance including construction and repair projects. He served as treasurer, preparing budgets for the school. He handled public relations, including tours, edited the Seminary Bulletin (now known as PS magazine), and held the post of bursar – filling an accounting role, processing bills, managing payroll records and tax forms. Kaufmann was liaison to the President from the faculty, held the post of alumni secretary, and related to synods. For many years he handled admissions as well. These responsibilities today are divided up and managed by a considerably larger staff. Once, Kaufmann was one of only four administrators.

Over the years, Dr. Kaufmann got to know hundreds of seminarians who he helped through the process of entering, learning at and graduating from seminary. Alumnus the Rev. Laura Csellak, now a pastor in Easton, PA, recalled the evening seminarians placed a sheet bearing the face of a jack-o-lantern over the Krauth Memorial Library clock on Halloween. Ever vigilant, Dr. Kaufmann quickly saw the prank and removed the sheet. “I always kept a special eye out during holidays and special occasions,” he recalled in an interview this summer. “The trouble was the sheet got caught up in the clock hands. It would have burned out the motor inside.” Years later, Kaufmann made a donation to replace the clock’s complex and difficult-to-maintain mechanism with a simpler digital device. “Not many people are around these days to repair tower clocks like ours,” he said about his gift. According to President Krey, "John secretly looked forward to the pranks of the students and loved their imagination."

Kaufmann during the interview recalled several life milestones that led him to seminary service and beyond. Reserve Officer Training Corps study was required at Lehigh, and in the late 1930s Kaufmann greatly enjoyed the program’s study of European and World War I history. A teaching officer urged him to apply for advanced ROTC study, likely leading him to become a military officer. “I flunked the physical,” he recalled. The military officer, frustrated by the outcome, urged him to take it again. “I flunked the second time too. I often wonder what would have happened in my life had I passed.” Wondering what to do with his training, his father, Harry, Pastor M. LeRoy Wuchter (Atonement Lutheran Church in Wyomissing, PA, where Kaufmann went to church) and his father’s cousin, seminary professor and President Paul Hoh, persuaded him to undertake seminary study.

After ordination, Kaufmann thought he would accept a call to a small congregation when in 1946 he was unexpectedly invited to be seminary registrar and treasurer. In 1986, LTSP President John Vannorsdall initiated a measure, approved by the seminary board, that would permit Kaufmann and his wife, Doris, to remain in their campus home after his retirement in 1990. “That was a very telling step,” he explained. “That I have been able to remain on campus all of these years is why I believe I am still alive, why I am here today. It gave me purpose, something to do. I have served under nine of the seminary’s 11 presidents. All of them have been exceedingly generous to me. ”

After retirement, Dr. Kaufmann indeed continued to live on the LTSP campus. He remained involved in the work of the seminary, providing invaluable and trusted guidance and counsel to the school, from his work with the seminary board of trustees, including his serving as board Assistant Secretary, to his involvement in the major construction projects of the Wiedemann Center and The Brossman Center on LTSP's campus.

Dr. Kaufmann's wife Doris and one of his two sons, Alan, died in 1993. The second son, Bruce, resides in a community living arrangement in Northeast Philadelphia. Arrangements for a private funeral will be made by the Ruth Jacob Funeral Home of Chestnut Hill, and, at Dr. Kaufmann's request, a memorial service will be scheduled at the Chapel of The Lutheran Theological Seminary. Memorial gifts may be made for the John A. Kaufmann Enrollment Services Center at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, 7301 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19119, or online

About the photos (click any image for a high-resolution version):
1. The Rev. Dr. John Kaufmann
2. John Kaufmann as a seminarian, recording a practice sermon on a disc recorder.
3. Dr. Kaufmann talking with LTSP's Mark Staples.
4. Dr. Kaufmann had an encyclopedic knowledge of the campus infrastructure. During construction of The Brossman Center, he would often be on the construction site consulting with workers.

updated 3/1/10 with link to Dr. Kaufmann's gift story.


Judith said...

I have such fond memories of Dr. Kaufmann, of his careful stewardship and wide-ranging knowledge of the seminary and its students and faculty, history and resources. He was unfailingly kind to me as a student and answered many questions over the years.
I remember my terror when, in my junior year, he caught me out for dressing Muhlenberg's statue (in a nightgown, no less!) in honor of the Board of Director's meeting. The twinkle in his eye as he "handed me my head" saved me from despair.
Any time I had a question, needed information, had to have a transcript forwarded, needed to know something about the Seminary or it's graduates, he was unfailingly there with what was needed.
It's hard to imagine the campus without him there. Dr. Kaufmann was a good and faithful servant; may he rest in the peace and joy of our Lord.

Judith (Bahrs) Boggs ('80)

Rev Kim said...

Some of my favorite moments of Seminary were Saturday mornings watching Dr Kaufmann go quietly around with his bucket of tools and parts to fix a loose board on a picnic table, plant a small tree and make sure it stood up straight, or other small deed around campus. I fondly recall sharing ROTC stories of Lehigh with him and how things had changed in the 60 yrs in between our time in Grace Hall. Dr Kaufmann was a giant who lived as an example of servant leadership which was far better than any book could teach me. Eternal life, grant him God. He truly was a good and faithful servant of Christ.

Anonymous said...

As an ally of the Halloween sheet prankster, I reserve the right to remain silent, except to say, "John Kaufmann: What an awesome servant of God! May he rest in Christ's peace. Amen"

LTSP Communications and Media said...

These comments were posted on LTSP's Facebook page (

Beatrice May Loney Proctor
One of my fondest memories of Dr. Kaufmann was when our son Aaron (5th grade at the time) had to fulfill an assignment at school to interview an important person. He knocked on Dr. Kaufmann's office door and asked him for the interview. Dr. Kaufmann treated Aaron like he was a professional anchorperson. Aaron, of course, received an A for that interview.

During Aaron's interview, Dr. Kaufmann gave the history of Mt. Airy and showed Aaron old photos of the area. He told Aaron that at one point in history, Germantown Avenue was a dirt road where people from Montgomery County would drive their cattle downtown to be sold. He always had so many interesting stories for all of us.
December 6 at 11:03am

Mark Werner
A dear professor and friend will truly be missed. Rest eternal grant him O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him.
December 6 at 12:36pm

Lisa Stanwich Holliday
Well done good and faithful servant.
December 6 at 1:19pm

Eric Lemonholm
I was only at LTSP for one year (98-99), but Dr. Kaufmann was a quiet, wise, constant presence on campus.
Mon at 11:58am

Rev. John W. Miller
I was blessed and honored to have met him while I was a student at LTSP. He was a very wise man who was kind and caring. I will miss him greatly. Rest in peace with all the saints that have gone before.
Mon at 7:30pm

Joanne Flores Chubb
Rest in peace cousin!
Tue at 10:23pm

David Schafer said...

For many in our class of 1988, LTSP and Dr. John Kauffman were synonymous. Always the two together. What a servant of the church! What a gift of God to the students and staff at LTSP! Thanx be to God for this gift!
Pastor David Schafer
Westminster, MD