Rev. Walter M. Wangerin Jr. ’86H, professor emeritus of English and theology, passed away on Aug. 5, 2021.
Walt was born on Feb. 13, 1944. A native of Oregon, Professor Wangerin was raised as the eldest of seven children in a family that lived in Washington, Illinois; North Dakota; and Canada.
Prior to joining the Valparaiso University faculty in 1991, he was pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Evansville, Indiana, for more than eight years. He also taught at Christ Seminary- Seminex and the Lutheran School of Theology. Earlier in his career, he was a radio announcer, an instructor at the University of Evansville and an award-winning newspaper columnist. He was also an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), a columnist for Lutheran Magazine, and was a speaker for Lutheran Vespers, the nationally syndicated radio ministry of the ELCA, beginning in 1994.
Professor Wangerin authored numerous critically acclaimed books on subjects ranging from fiction to children’s literature to practical theology and devotionals. His “The Book of the Dun Cow” (Harper & Row, 1978) was named The New York Times’ Best Children’s Book of the Year and received The American Book Award. His subsequent books, now totaling more than 30, have been equally well received.
He received the Helen Keating Ott Award for outstanding contribution to children’s literature from the Church and Synagogue Library Association in 2000 and received the Wittenberg Award from The Luther Institute in 1994. A popular storyteller and speaker, Professor Wangerin appeared in an ABC television network documentary about forgiveness.
He earned an associate of arts degree at Concordia Junior College in Milwaukee; a bachelor of arts degree at Concordia Senior College, Fort Wayne, Indiana; a master of divinity degree at Christ Seminary-Seminex, St. Louis; and a master of arts degree from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. Valparaiso University awarded him an honorary doctor of literature degree in 1986. He is survived by his wife, Ruthanne, and their four children.