By Adriane Heins
On May 30, Rear Admiral Daniel Gard was elected 11th president of Concordia University Chicago (CUC), River Forest, Ill., by the university’s board of regents.
“The word ‘honored,’” he says when considering his election, “doesn’t quite cover it.”
The Rev. Dr. Daniel Gard seems to have done it all. He’s taught future LCMS pastors how to read Hebrew, won meritorious service medals in his extended military career and comforted grieving families at the Pentagon on 9/11 in his role as chaplain.
He’s ministered to military and civilian personnel at Guantanamo Bay, served as pastor in a Midwestern parish and, only months ago, was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the 18th deputy chief of Navy chaplains for reserve matters.
Some days he’s buried in textbooks in his office at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., where he serves as professor of Exegetical Theology. On others, he’s in uniform in his Pentagon office, where he tends to the pastoral care of sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.
And he’s just getting started. “Admiral Gard is an outstanding choice,” notes the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. “This kind of leadership quality comes only occasionally in the church. CUC and Dr. Gard remain in our prayers as the call is considered.”
“Concordia University Chicago can rejoice in the election of Dan Gard,” agrees the Rev. Dr. Dean Wenthe, president of the Concordia University System. “President-elect Gard brings outstanding academic credentials, a rich administrative experience and a winsome Christian vision to the university.”
The oldest in the Concordia University System (which is comprised of 10 LCMS colleges and universities), CUC is currently celebrating its 150th academic year.
Gard notes that the university’s influence on Lutheran education — specifically that of church-work careers — has been significant in the history of the LCMS.
“Concordia University Chicago is a historic Lutheran school with a long and distinguished record of service to the church and to the world,” he says. “For 150 years, Concordia has exemplified the Lutheran tradition of serious scholarship rooted in the certain conviction that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. By keeping Christ at the center and with a strong identity as a Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod university, that record of service will continue far into the future under the mercy and grace of God.”
Gard’s talents — a varied set honed on the battlefield, in the classroom and at the bedside — will be a great blessing to the school, Wenthe believes. His gifts “are imbedded in a caring, pastoral heart that faculty, staff and students will find refreshing and inspiring.”
Military chaplaincy prepared him for such a role, Gard says, especially after “26 years of working in a pluralistic, multicultural environment that is the Navy” alongside “sailors and Marines about the same age as traditional college students.”
His pastoral care for those men and women — and his students at the seminary — hasn’t gone unnoticed. “In a culture that increasingly reduces humanity to no more than passing material beings, Dr. Gard will witness to the beauty, wonder and truths of Christ’s love for each and every human being as so clearly portrayed in sacred Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions,” Wenthe says.
“We are very proud of and exceedingly thankful for Dr. Daniel Gard,” agrees the Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast, president of Concordia Theological Seminary. “For over 25 years, he has used his God-given gifts in exemplary service to the Synod at Concordia Theological Seminary and in the Navy Reserve. His proven ability to work with people from all backgrounds and abilities will serve Concordia University Chicago well, should he be led by God’s Spirit to accept this call.”
As Gard — who was given 15 days to accept or decline the election — deliberates, he says he is encouraged by the good gifts God has in store for CUC. “The best days of Concordia are not the days of the past but the future into which God will lead,” he explains. “I will be praying for the university as I have been for quite a while: that it will always have a self-identity as part of the educational mission of the LCMS, and that it will maintain a close connection to the Synod.”
“CUC has a unique urban environment, a rich history and strong academics,” he says. “But most especially, it is a place where Jesus Christ is at the center. This is the university that doesn’t belong to us; it belongs to Christ, serving both the church and the world.”
Adriane Heins is executive editor of The Lutheran Witness.
Posted June 2, 2014