Kreft Chair for Music Arts

Shirley and Karl Kreft
Shirley and Karl Kreft

Commitment to Lutheran higher education began in Germany

Growing up in Germany, Karl Kreft was deeply affected by the lack of quality educational opportunities in his post-World War II homeland. That experience fueled his commitment to Lutheran higher education, a dedication that led Kreft and his wife, Shirley, to establish the Kreft Chair for Music Arts at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in 2017.

While Karl was born and raised in Germany, Shirley hails from Nebraska. The couple, who lives in Clarendon Hills, Ill., are members of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Downers Grove, and also remain affiliated with Karl’s family church in Germany, Auferstehungskirche in Bielefeld-Theesen.

Exemplary service to the church

In the 1990s, Dr. Ralph A. Bohlmann, the late president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, invited Kreft to get involved with Concordia College Alabama, Selma. Since then Kreft has served with distinction in advisory and board-level capacities throughout the Concordia University System (CUS).

Over the years the Krefts have received numerous awards and honorary doctorates for their commitment to Lutheran higher education, including those bestowed by Concordia in Selma; Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn. In 2015, the Concordia Seminary faculty presented the Krefts the Christus Vivit award in recognition of their exemplary service to the church.

The couple’s generosity also strengthens higher education at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind., where they established the Kreft Endowed Chair for the Advancement of Nursing Science and, more recently, the Karl and Shirley Kreft Endowed Fund for the LCMS Pastoral Ministry and Chapel Programs.

Partners in life and service

For four decades Karl owned and operated Bohle Machine Tools, Inc. Though he retired as president in 2000, he remains active nationally and internationally in the heavy-duty machine tool industry.

The Krefts have two children and burst into smiles at the mention of their six grandchildren. With a nod to his longtime spouse’s quiet style of support, Karl calls Shirley the chair of his personal board of directors.

Partners in marriage, in life and in service, the Krefts hold resolutely by faith to the promises of Christ, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

Dr. James Marriott

James Marriott

  • Director, Musical Arts
  • Kreft Chair for Music Arts, Dean of Chapel