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When our Lord and Savior summoned the relatively young Theodore Aaberg to his eternal home in 1980, the seminary was left without a permanent administrative head. Glenn Reichwald served as acting president until Wilhelm W. Petersen (1928–2018) accepted the call of the Board of Regents to be the new president of the seminary and began his work on August 1, 1980. Having been named by his parents after the founding president of the Missouri Synod, Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther, theologian Petersen understandably developed a strong and vital interest in the topic so dear to this noble spiritual forebearer and so ably set forth in the latter’s priceless volume, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel. During Petersen’s presidency, Adolph Harstad received a call to teach Old Testament studies and John Moldstad to teach New Testament studies.
During these same years, the need for a larger seminary building was recognized. When the headquarters of the synod moved to Bethany in 1986, it took over one large seminary classroom for office space and required more secretarial space for printing, mailing, copying, etc. The seminary library had become too small to accommodate the need for study carrels, a computer lab, new books, and the storage of periodicals. The fire marshal had informed the seminary that it was not in conformity with space requirements. In general, the seminary had become overcrowded and lacked sufficient space for both the synod and the seminary.
On June 15, 1997, the new seminary building was dedicated to the glory of the gracious Savior. The new seminary building provided ample space for the synodical offices and archives. It houses the headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. In the building, the offices of the synodical president, giving counselor, and business administrator are found. The majority of synodical committee meetings occur in the seminary conference room. Adequate classroom space was provided for the seminary. In addition, a chapel, student lounge, library, and professors’ offices were included. The beautiful chapel is named the Good Shepherd Chapel because of the stained-glass window that predominates the worship area.
The same day the new seminary building was dedicated, Gaylin Schmeling was installed as president of the seminary. In 2006, Michael Smith was called to teach New Testament. After the retirement of Adolph Harstad, Timothy Schmeling received a call to teach Old Testament courses, Confessions, and church history. When Smith accepted a call to the seminary in Hong Kong, Nicholas Proksch was called in his place. For many years, Thomas Kuster taught communication courses in the seminary. After his retirement, Brian Klebig began teaching these courses.
Throughout its history, a large number of men have attended Bethany Seminary to prepare for the pastoral ministry. Many international students have attended the institution and then have returned to their homelands as missionaries. From 1961 to 1988, the Mequon Program at Bethany provided pre-seminary training for second career students of the Wisconsin Synod.
With the beautiful seminary facilities at 6 Browns Court and an adequate faculty, the seminary has been able to train more and more pastors for our congregations and mission fields. The seminary desires to instill in each student a love for God’s Word and a love for souls. Having reached this important milestone of seventy-five years, the seminary, by God’s grace, intends to continue this vital work of preparing shepherds to proclaim salvation in Christ the crucified. To make this possible, everyone is encouraged to participate in the seventy-fifth anniversary fund.