David Rittmann, Shanghai school headmaster, dies

Dr. David F. Rittmann, head of school at Concordia International School Shanghai and a pioneer in Lutheran internationaRittmann, Davidl education, died of a heart attack July 4 in Camano Island, Wash.  Rittmann, 63, had recently been treated for heart problems in China, and had returned to the United States for further treatment.

A funeral service is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, July 11, at Historic Trinity Lutheran Church, 812 Soulard St., in St. Louis.  Visitation will be from 4 to 9 p.m. July 10 at the church.

Rittmann served the Synod’s teaching ministry for 42 years and was “a pioneer in establishing Lutheran education in the international community and responsible for raising the profile of Christian international schools throughout Asia,” said Rev. David Birner, associate executive director, international, with LCMS World Mission.

At the time of his death Rittmann was head of school at Concordia International School Shanghai (CISS), one of two international schools owned and operated by The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.  CISS, located in Shanghai’s Pudong international-business district, offers an American, Christian curriculum — preschool through high school — to the children of foreigners working in China.

Under Rittmann’s leadership, enrollment at CISS had grown from about 250 in 2002 to some 850 today.  In 2003 the school more than doubled in size with construction of a 56,000-square-foot building housing a gym, a library and media center, classrooms, and a commons area.

Rittmann also had served as headmaster at the Synod’s other international school, Hong Kong International School (HKIS), from 1977 to 1996, overseeing the planning and construction of the school’s Tai Tam campus that now houses the middle and high schools.  The school’s Chinese Language Center at the Repulse Bay campus was named after Rittmann “out of deep gratitude for his 19 years of service and dedication to our school,” according to HKIS Acting Headmaster James A. Handrich.

“David will be remembered as a champion of academic excellence by many thousands, both inside and outside our extended community,” Handrich said.  “All of us who knew David feel blessed that he touched our lives.”

In the years between his international service — from 1997 to 2002 — Rittmann served as president of the Lutheran High School Association of St. Louis, an organization providing college-preparatory Christian education through Lutheran High School North and Lutheran High School South.  While in that post, he established a strong fund-raising program, encouraged curricular innovations, supported efforts to increase enrollment, and adjusted faculty and staff salaries to be more competitive.

Earlier in his career, Rittmann taught at Lutheran schools in New York and Chicago.

Rittmann graduated in 1964 from Concordia College (now University) in River Forest, Ill., and held a master’s degree in language and communication from New York University.  He also received an honorary doctorate from Concordia, River Forest, and was a Klingenstein Fellow at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a C.A. Johnson Fellow in leadership and a diplomat of The Wharton School.

He is survived by his wife, Doris, four children — Stephanie (Andy) Rose of Cody, Wyo.; Rebecca Tipton of Lakewood, Colo.; Mark (Suzanne) Rittmann of San Francisco; and Sarah Rittmann of Portland, Ore. — and four grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to Concordia International School Shanghai (make checks payable to LCMS World Mission — Rittmann Memorial and mail to LCMS World Mission, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295).

Posted July 7, 2006

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