The Concordia Seminary faculty selected five individuals to receive special honors during Commencement exercises on May 21. Two awards were the Christus Vivit, one was the Distinguished Alumnus, and two were the honorary doctor of divinity degree.
Mr. James F. Ralls, Jr. received the Christus Vivit Award. Ralls has been a member of the Board of Regents of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, since 1998, and has served as the chairman of the Board since 2001. Professionally, Mr. Ralls has been in private practice and a member of the law firm Kuhlman, Reddoch & Sullivan, P.C., since 1996. As a member of King of Kings Lutheran Church in North Kansas City, Mo., Mr. Ralls has served since 2005 as the chairman of the Long Range Planning Committee. Previously, while a member at Christ Lutheran Church in Platte Woods, Mo., (1986-2003), he served two terms as the president of the congregation, and he was an elder of the congregation for 13 years. From 1994 to 1998, Mr. Ralls served as a board member of the Standing Committee on Pastoral Ministry of the LCMS, after which time he was elected by the National Convention of the LCMS to begin his service on the Board of Regents of Concordia Seminary.
Mr. John D. Wittenmyer received the Christus Vivit Award. Wittenmyer currently serves as vice chairman of the Board of Regents for Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo., a position he has held for the past nine years. Mr. Wittenmyer is in his 12th year of consecutive service on the Board of Regents, a term that will expire in September 2010. Mr. Wittenmyer has had various leadership roles in his congregation, Memorial Lutheran Church of Houston, Texas: chairman of the Board of Stewardship, chairman of the Day School Board, and chairman of the Board of Public Relations. He has also taught Sunday school and served in various other capacities. Mr. Wittenmyer was born in East Cleveland, Ohio, on December 2, 1950. He obtained his undergraduate B.A. degree from Allegheny College in Meadville, Penn., in 1972. He subsequently obtained his J.D. from South Texas College of Law in Houston, Texas, in August 1976, and has been actively practicing law in Houston, Texas, since February 1977.
Dr. Alan F. Harre received the Distinguished Alumnus Award. He has served his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the Church as both pastor and educator. From 1967 to 1973, Dr. Harre served as assistant pastor at St. James Lutheran Church of Grosse Pointe, Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich. As an educator at Concordia Teacher College, Seward, Neb., he served as professor of theology from 1973-1984, and as its acting president from May through July of 1984. From 1984 to 1988, Dr. Harre served as president of Concordia College, St. Paul, Minn. In 1988, Dr. Harre began serving as president of Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Ind. He retired from this service in June 2008. Dr. Harre authored the well-known book Close the Back Door, published by Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, in 1984. In addition, he has published several articles on Christian Education in Lutheran Education and The Lutheran Witness.
Dr. Richard L. Alms received the honorary degree of doctor of divinity. Rev. Alms has served his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as counselor-chaplain at Lutheran Service Society, Buffalo, N.Y. (1960-1961); pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church, Baltimore, Md. (1961-1967); and the Lutheran Mission Society, headquartered in Baltimore, as well as Ministry Missions in Annapolis and Essex, and Havre De Grace, Md. (1967-2006). Rev. Alms has served with distinction in several community and governmental positions: the National Private Sector Board, Office of Economic Opportunity, White House Appointment (1970-74); chairman of the Advisory Committee, Religious and Community Services, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for the State of Maryland (1972-1980); chairman of the Board of Directors, Look and Live Ministries, owner of Channel 24 TV, a Christian and family station covering Baltimore and Washington, D.C. (1982-1987); and member of the Office of Government Information, the LCMS (1986-1990). Since the spring of 2006, Rev. Alms has served as Alumni Phase Committee chairman, and as a member of the National Steering Committee, of theHow Will They Hear? campaign of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
Rev. José A. Pfaffenzeller received the honorary degree of doctor of divinity. Rev. Pfaffenzeller has been an ordained pastor in the Iglesia Evangélica Luterana Argentina (IELA) for 29 years. He was director of Seminario Concordia, Buenos Aires, from 2003 until June 2009. He continues to serve as professor of systematic and practical theology. Rev. Pfaffenzeller has been a recognized leader, especially in turbulent times, in the IELA as well as at Seminario Concordia. Rev. Pfaffenzeller continues to work toward greater interaction with sister institutions worldwide, such as Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in the development of advanced theological studies for Latin American church workers, through partnerships with Seminario Concordia in Buenos Aires. He has published numerous articles in El Nuevo Luterano (similar to The Lutheran Witness magazine) as well as in Seminario Concordia’s theological journal Revista Teológica, an important publication in the Latin American Lutheran world.