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Connie Bretscher ’42
Valparaiso, Indiana

Alumni in Focus

Through Years That Come and Go

Fall 2022

Hail to the Brown and Gold, We pledge thee to uphold, Wherever we may be, Thy honored name. Through years that come and go, To pay the debt we owe, We’ll e’er be true to you, Dear old Valpo.

On Oct. 1, 2021, Connie Bretscher stood and sang the third verse of the Alma Mater during the conclusion of the 2021 Valparaiso University Alumni Association (VUAA) awards banquet. Though she received the Alumni Service Award in 2020, Connie was finally able to accept it in person last fall, clad in her Chapel of the Resurrection scarf and surrounded by two full tables of family and friends who cheered in support.

“We’re recognizing community service because as a Lutheran, faith-based university, that’s what we measure ourselves by,” remarked University President José D. Padilla, J.D., at the banquet. For the Alumni Association, Connie’s service is no exception.

Aurelia Constance Bruegmann was born Jan. 10, 1921, in southern Illinois. After beginning piano lessons at age 4, Connie became the organist at Zion Lutheran Church in Bethalto. By the time she graduated from Alton High School in 1938, she had already developed a portfolio of her own piano students. She earned her undergraduate degree from Valparaiso University in 1942, then married Arnold Felten ’40 — only after earning enough money to purchase her wedding dress by teaching piano lessons! During her time at Valpo, Connie served as a liturgical organist and found a passion for choral directing while singing under Richard Schoenbohm, a passion that eventually led her to found the children’s choir at Valparaiso’s Immanuel Lutheran School in 1959. Though she had originally aspired to teach mathematics in a high school setting, her elementary teaching career spanned decades.


Connie celebrated her 100th birthday.

Throughout her teaching and church music career, Connie remained a dedicated alumna and an ever-curious student. According to Senior Research Professor in Theology Fred Niedner, Th.D., “Connie’s volunteer work on Valpo’s behalf began with her membership in a vocal trio that accompanied O.P. Kretzmann on recruiting trips around the country.” In 1951, she became secretary treasurer of the VUAA board. After a brief move to Indianapolis, she returned to Immanuel Lutheran and to campus to complete a master of arts in liberal studies with a concentration in education in 1971. After 55 years of marriage to Connie, Arnold passed away in 1998. In 2001, Connie married Valparaiso University theology professor Rev. Paul G. Bretscher (1921–2016), whose children had all been her pupils at Immanuel Lutheran. Though she retired from teaching and performing in 2007, she remained a student. “Connie is, without a doubt, a lifelong learner,” wrote Associate Professor of Music Joseph Bognar ’94, DMA. “She returned to regular study in her 80s, taking lessons with me for almost 10 years … she took on new musical challenges, practicing the works of Bach, Sinding, Chopin, and many others. Keeping music as an active part of her daily routine nourished her mind and spirit, and I am sure it is part of the secret to longevity!”

When the opportunity arose to travel to Germany with the University to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Connie turned to the world languages and cultures department to prepare, auditing a German course in order to enhance her travels. In a 2017 interview for The Torch, Connie said the brush-up was needed, as her original German instruction from 75 years prior“didn’t stick.” Connie spoke fondly of the special trip abroad upon her return. “The tour celebrating the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation remains a highlight of my 96 years. My son and daughter-in-law, Michael ’79 and Lois Bauer ’80 Felten, also alumni, were my most welcome companions. Hearing the Chorale at the actual location and on the actual day 500 years after Luther began his inspired effort to reform the church was a thrilling event.”

A well-rounded alumna, Connie is just as at home in the Athletics-Recreation Center as she is in the Center for the Arts: she has been a men’s basketball season ticket holder for 57 years. In honor of their most diehard fan, the team celebrated her 100th birthday with decorations and a video recognition during their television broadcast. Though COVID-19 kept her from attending her birthday game in person, she watched and waved from the lawn.

Though it is her alma mater that truly owes Connie a debt, she continues to dedicate herself to ensuring its success and the preservation of the history and heritage that make Valpo special. In September 2021, Connie invited President Padilla into her home on the west side of campus to share articles and artifacts of her time with the University and the community. Thankful for her wisdom, he joked that his wife might be a little jealous of their close bond.

In his letter of support for her Alumni Service Award, Fred Niedner wrote, “Connie Bretscher has embodied for her whole adult life a healthy, lifegiving form of Christian servanthood, as well as the ethos of service our mission statement says we seek to learn and teach at Valparaiso University.” Ever true to her alma mater, her service continues. How lucky we are to benefit.

Topics Alumni Alumni

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