Ralph W. Klein: Superstar

By Echols, James Kenneth | Currents in Theology and Mission, October 2008 | Go to article overview

Ralph W. Klein: Superstar


Echols, James Kenneth, Currents in Theology and Mission


On Wednesday evening, May 14, 2008, LSTC's faculty gathered for its annual end-of-the-year banquet. Traditionally, it is the event at which anniversaries are recognized, leave-takings acknowledged with appreciation for service rendered, and retirements celebrated with thanks giving for lives dedicated to the ministry of theological education.

This year's banquet included the rich opportunity to thank Ralph W. Klein, Christ Seminary-Seminex Professor of Old Testament, for his numerous contributions over twenty-five years at LSTC and forty years of teaching.

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Surrounded by his wife, Marilyn, two daughters and their spouses, and five grandsons, Ralph's remarks delivered to ward the end of the evening were both elegant and eloquent. And he concluded his very moving comments by simply invoking the words of Simeon, "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace" (Luke 2:29).

As Ralph departs in peace to retirement from full-time service, the term that comes to mind that characterizes his extraordinary ministry is "superstar." In the sports world here in Chicago, the term superstar is equated with basketball great Michael Jordan. In athletic jargon, Jordan could do it all. He could score and rebound, play excellent defense and pass the ball with precision, encourage his teammates, and exercise effective leadership. By all accounts, he made everyone around him a better basketball player, and together the Chicago Bulls won a number of NBA championships.

In theological education, Ralph has been a superstar, doing it all in the various arenas of service. The classroom has been a labor of love as Ralph has taught and interpreted the Old Testament to students preparing for rostered or teaching ministries in the United States and around the world. Students express profound gratitude for his instruction. The excellence of his teaching has been grounded in steadfast scholarship that has yielded an impressive list of publications and kept him current with developments in his field of expertise.

The excellence of his teaching has been wonderfully enhanced by his embrace of educational technology as evidenced by his incredible Web site, use of other technology teaching methods, and the development of one of the seminary's first online courses. LSTC's faculty has looked to Ralph as its Academic Technology Leader, and he has generously shared his expertise. Ralph has done it all in the classroom!

In addition to the classroom teaching and study scholarship, Ralph has been an institutional leader, sharing his considerable competence, insight, and wisdom with LSTC. When I arrived at the seminary in 1997, Ralph was serving as Academic Dean, and he did everything possible to welcome and support me. I remain deeply grateful for his partnership. In the previous issue of Currents, current Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kathleen D. Billman paid tribute to him for his support of her at the beginning of and throughout her tenure in office, and this witnesses to the kind of person Ralph is. Since completing his own term in 1999, he has gone on to chair the successful 2007 Association of Theological Schools' Ten-Year Reaccreditation Visit, chair the Faculty Executive Committee, and serve as a member of the current Strategic Planning Leadership Team. Through these and other assignments, Ralph has consistently offered his time and talent to LSTC in its institutional life, and the seminary is substantially stronger because of his dedication. Ralph has done it all in key seminary leadership positions!

Programmatically, LSTC owes Ralph a deep debt of gratitude for his work with a traditional commitment and recent initiative. …

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