The Concordia Seminary faculty selected four individuals to receive special honors during Commencement exercises on May 22. One award was the Christus Vivit, one was the Distinguished Alumnus, one was the honorary doctor of letters degree and one was the honorary doctor of divinity degree.
Hon. Bill Schuette received the Christus Vivit Award. Schuette’s public service began in 1984 when he was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a congressman from Michigan. At the age of 31, he was one of the youngest Congressmen in America. He stated his determination to be “a full-time voice and a full-time vote—an advocate—for agricultural producers” in his home state and also for the elderly. He served on the House Agriculture Committee and the Select Committee on Aging, as well as the House Budget Committee. His qualifications for service on the state Senate Judiciary Committee and as Judge in the Michigan Court of appeals (2002-2009) can be seen from his academic career. Currently, he is senior counsel at the law firm of Warner, Norcross & Judd, one of the largest law firms in Michigan.
Rev. Robert Bergt received the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Rev. Bergt is the music director and conductor of The American Kantorei and artist-in-residence at Concordia Seminary. He has devoted his entire career to the musical glorification of God as lecturer, teacher, conductor, musician and consultant on worship and church music. In the fall of 1956 he was appointed instructor of music at the Seminary and became assistant and associate professor, up through 1974. During this period he also served as assistant pastor at Trinity, Alton, Ill., and at Glendale Lutheran Church in St. Louis. After this he became professor of music at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (1974-1984), chairman of the department of music at Valparaiso University, Ind. (1984-1988), and professor of music at Musashino Academy Musicae, Tokyo, Japan (1988-1995). Bergt has been the conductor of several choirs, some of which he founded, most notably the Concordia Cantata Chorus, which was later incorporated under the name American Kantorei.
Peter L. Steinke received the honorary degree of doctor of letters. Dr. Steinke is a nationally recognized consultant on congregational life and dynamics and has written extensively on this topic. He has written for diverse audiences, but his Christ-centered approach is always clear. His influence extends far beyond The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. He created the “Bridge-builder” process for dealing with troubled congregations and developed “Healthy Congregations,” a lay leadership training curriculum. He has served as the director of Clergy Care in the Lutheran Social Services of the South. He has also been the executive director of Interfaith Pastoral Counseling for St. Alexis Hospital (1992-1994) and of Janus House, for emotionally disturbed youth (1971-1973). Over the years he has also taught courses at eight different seminaries in North America. He is a Fellow of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.
Paulo Nerbas, president of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB), received the honorary degree of doctor of divinity. As president of Seminario Concordia, Professor Nerbas was the first president to head the new Pastoral Theological Formation Program for the IELB. When the IELB decided in convention to merge the Escola Superior de Teología in Sao Paulo with Seminario Concordia in Sao Leopoldo in 2002, he was key in assisting in this transition. Under his leadership, the merging of faculty of these theological institutions continued to provide sound theological training and formation for their students. He has served as pastor and missionary in Portugal and several Brazilian parishes: Lisbon, Portugal; Viamao, RS, Brazil; and Sapirango, RS, Brazil. He was professor of theology at Escola Superior de Teología, Sao Paulo, Brazil (1985-1989), and Seminario Concordia, Sao Leopoldo, Brazil (1992-2006). He was director of courses of theology and philosophy at the Lutheran University of Brasil (ULBRA) from 1994-1998.