Dr. Brian Friedrich looks at the wall above his office desk to a portrait of his grandfather, Rev. Walter Friedrich.
The oldest son of William and Christine Friedrich, Walter grew up in Alta, Iowa. At that time, the Friedrich family had a tradition: The oldest son belonged to the Lord. He would become a pastor and serve the Lord and His church. So, Walter attended Concordia High School and College in Saint Paul, Minn. (now Concordia University, Saint Paul), and continued on to Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, graduating in 1923. He spent his entire ministry from 1923-77 in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Iowa District West.
Walter and his wife, Alma, had six children. All four of their sons graduated from Concordia Seminary: Rev. Martin Friedrich (’49), Rev. Henry Friedrich (’53), Rev. William Friedrich (’55) and Rev. Robert Friedrich (’62). Two of their grandsons also entered the ministry, graduating from Concordia Seminary: Dr. Brian Friedrich (’86) and Rev. Mark Friedrich (’86). Two grandsons-in-law also serve in the ministry, graduating from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.: Rev. Henry Witte (’79) and Rev. David Baumgarn (’96).
“My parents saw to it that we were all baptized and instructed in the Word,” says Rev. Henry Friedrich, Dr. Brian Friedrich’s father, as he ponders his parents’ lives. “Their attitude was always to keep us in the faith and to encourage and inspire us [their sons] to consider going to the Seminary as well. We became pastors because of the interest and encouragement our parents gave to us.” At that time, finances often were not great for those in the ministry, and yet, “whenever my brothers and I came home,” Henry remarks appreciatively, “we never left empty-handed.”
Henry proudly reflects on his father’s ministry. “He was a one-on-one kind of person, making a lot of calls and visits,” Henry says. And Walter wasn’t doing this ministry alone. “My siblings and I wanted to not only honor Dad, but also the one who was there next to him, helping him all along,” he says. “My grandma was the quintessential pastor’s wife,” Brian adds with a smile. Alma was beside her husband throughout his ministry, supporting and helping him in everything.
Walter and Alma’s influence reached beyond their own children and grandchildren. “My dad was pastor of the family in a way,” observes Henry. “It was at a family reunion when my siblings and I brought up establishing an endowment, and many of our extended family members really liked that idea. My parents were really respected by the family.” In 2014, “The Walter H. and Alma Thraum Friedrich Family Endowment” was established by Rev. Henry Friedrich and his siblings “as testimony to Walter Friedrich’s ministry and to honor the memory of Walter and Alma Friedrich.” This kind of fund is created for the purpose of generating perpetual earnings and ongoing, increasing worth — a way of giving that furthers the mission of Concordia Seminary.
“God is faithful,” says Henry. “Without Him, we have nothing. We thank Him for His power and His provision.” This thankfulness and praise to God is seen even within the endowment itself, which states that the student financial aid endowment “is established as a testimony to the greatness of the Triune God, who has bestowed rich and gracious blessings, both temporal and eternal, upon His beloved children. To Him be all glory, honor and praise.”
The Great Commission, the mission of the Seminary and the Friedrich family’s endowment is a part of all of that. Giving to the Seminary is one way of pressing forward, preparing the current and next generations of servants, Brian asserts. “I think about how the Great Commission is seeded into the mission of the Seminary, and the thrust of the Great Commission is the forward movement,” Brian says. “We ought to be forward-going people within Jesus’ mission. That’s what He called His first disciples to do 2,000 years ago. That’s what He continues to call us to do until we’re home with Him in heaven. Anything on this side of eternity that we can do, we want to be helping to move that mission forward.”
Brian glances again to his grandfather’s portrait. “I look at him every day,” he says.
Walter and Alma left a legacy of generosity to the church. Their children, in honoring that legacy, have left their own legacy. “The endowment is a way to give witness to Walter and Alma’s lives of service,” Brian says, “and to encourage and support the next generations of those who also are giving their lives into service of Christ’s church. It is our prayer that many others would be moved to join in that forward mission.”