For 40 years Concordia University has been preparing  “students not just for jobs but also for service,” states Concordia President Kurt Krueger in a recent article in the Daily Pilot. I am grateful for the leadership of President Krueger and the Concordia staff who have led the university to become not only a place for an excellent education, but a positive force in our community.
The impact of their service, both Concordia faculty and students, at Orange County Rescue Mission’s Village of Hope is beyond what I could have hoped for in our partnership. They  are a “role model” to other universities.
Read the article to learn more about Concordia University Irvine.

Tucked behind the hills off University Drive in Irvine is a college preparing to celebrate 40 years of history — a college that opened with just 36 students, five faculty members and one building. “These students were pioneers,” said Martin Schramm, the last of Concordia University Irvine’s five original faculty members to retire. Now, with more than 4,000 students, 155 full-time faculty members and 22 buildings, the private four-year Christian university will celebrate its 40th anniversary July 24 with the 15-piece band Wartime Radio Revue, dancing and cake for guests.
Fellow founder Shang Ik Moon remembers the days leading to Concordia’s opening in 1976 as being hectic but that employees “made it through.” “Before opening day, the walls were not painted, the toilets were not in yet and we were still unloading some furniture,” Moon said. “But that gave us greater commitment and zeal. Sometimes you have to roll with the punches and improvise.”

Concordia, a Lutheran institution, opened in 1976 as Christ College Irvine. Seventeen years later, the Board of Regents changed the name to Concordia, the 10th campus in the national Concordia University System. The system, formed by the Lutheran Church’s Missouri Synod, also has campuses in Chicago, Alabama, New York, Michigan, Texas, Oregon, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Until 1979, the Irvine campus’s administration, classrooms, library and dormitory were housed in one building. During its second year, some students dormed in an apartment on the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach. A van picked them up to take them to classes.

LaVeda Carter, the executive director of annual giving and special events, said Concordia raised funds for facilities as the needs of its growing student population increased. “Many four-year universities are supported by their alumni base, but we had no alumni base,” Carter, a 38-year employee of the school, said with a laugh. “Fundraising was essentially started by committed people who believed in having a university like this on the West Coast, in the SoCal area. All these people — board of trustees, donors, volunteers — had this vision.”
Recent graduate Jessica Greenwald, 22, said she chose to attend Concordia because it offered her a spot on the swim team. Greenwald’s legs never fully developed because of mild cerebral palsy. “I was able to swim there,” she said. “I chose [Concordia] for the location and I wanted a place to learn more about my faith.”

Two years ago, Greenwald’s tournament time in the 50-yard breaststroke qualified her for the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Trials in Charlotte, N.C. “My team is everything,” Greenwald said. “They gave me rides to and from pool practice because I can’t drive. One of my closest teammates is going with me to trials in Charlotte … as my assistant on deck.”
In Concordia’s 40-year history, the college has won championships in basketball, baseball, volleyball and softball in the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics Division I. “I think what we mostly focus on is training excellent graduates who can be an influence in the community,” Concordia President Kurt Krueger said. “We try to train students not just for jobs but also for service.” The university has a six-year partnership with the Orange County Rescue Mission’s Village of Hope, where students tutor children at a Tustin transitional living facility for homeless families.

The Concordia Cares program gives students, faculty and staff the chance to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and Second Harvest Food Bank in Irvine. Volunteers also have had a hand in cooking and serving meals to families at the Ronald McDonald House and replanting native species for the Back Bay ecosystem with the Newport Bay Conservancy. “We want to continue to grow and provide the kind of education we do for more and more students,” Krueger said. “Faithfulness and excellence — those are the two words I hope will describe Concordia for the next 40 years.”

Alex Chan, alexandra.chan@latimes.com

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