Thursday, August 22, 2013

Elizabeth Bagger has died: Tireless LTSP benefactor and volunteer, career English teacher

Elizabeth "Betty" Bagger, a career English teacher who was also a benefactor and volunteer to the cause of education for many years, died after a long illness on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at Luther Crest, a retirement community in South Whitehall Township, PA, near Allentown where she resided.

Mrs. Bagger was born Feb. 18, 1923 in Burlington, Iowa, the daughter of the late Daniel Lawrence and Irma Goezer Hodges. She graduated from Burlington Senior High School and the College of Commerce in Burlington. Her first career post was serving as an office assistant for the Des Moines County Farm Bureau in Burlington.

Mrs. Bagger decided to head east, where, during World War II, she studied parish administration and graduated from the Lutheran Deaconess Motherhouse in Baltimore, MD. After graduating, she became parish secretary at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster, PA, where the Rev. Henry Bagger was pastor. While working there, Pastor Bagger told Elizabeth, "You should meet my son, Ralph, when he returns from service in the war." The meeting subsequently took place, and the couple married. Pastor Henry Bagger went on to become president of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), which was to become a focal point for Betty Bagger's considerable volunteer exploits.

Ralph W. Bagger followed in his father's footsteps to become a parish pastor, serving at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, Allentown (1951-1955), Immanuel Lutheran Church, East Lansdowne (1955-1959), Friedens Lutheran Church in Hegins (1959-1968), all in Pennsylvania, and finally working in Philadelphia as Periodicals Editor for the Board of Publications of the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), a predecessor body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) denomination. During the years Ralph Bagger held his editor's post, he and Betty lived in nearby Norristown, Montgomery County, where Betty last taught before the couple retired. Ralph Bagger died in January 2005.

During the Hegins years, Mrs. Bagger completed her college studies, commuting to both Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, and Kutztown University, where she was awarded a master's degree in education with a concentration in English. She then began her teaching career at Tri-Valley High School in Hegins. During the Norristown years, Mrs. Bagger taught English and Literature of the Bible at Norristown Area High School. While there, she initiated student exchanges to England, Wales, and Germany. During this period of her life Mrs. Bagger became involved in the Auxiliary at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), where her father-in-law had served as president. She was president of the Auxillary for many years before its membership began to decline and it disbanded in the mid-1990s. Through Auxiliary events and tireless campaigning, Mrs. Bagger was a force in raising funds to upgrade spaces on the seminary's 13-acre Mt. Airy, Philadelphia, campus. Projects included improvements made to dormitory rooms and the now more than 100 year old Krauth Memorial Library.

Mrs. Bagger was a liaison of the Mt. Airy Lutheran Archives Board, an extensive church history repository housed on the LTSP campus.

From 1954 to 1984, Ralph and Betty Bagger served as writers and editors for the official biennial convention summaries of the former United Lutheran Church in America, also a predecessor church body of the ELCA, and Lutheran Church in America. They sat together in the front row at the assemblies, taking careful notes and then working far into the night to produce detailed summaries for quick distribution to voting members and other church audiences. They were known for their meticulously careful reporting and writing.

"Betty and Ralph were very precise in their work," recalled Robert Blanck, Esq., a Philadelphia attorney and Trustee at LTSP who knew them both for many years. "Betty helped her husband with regard to editorial matters during his work with the Board of Publications." Blanck remembered Mrs. Bagger as "a good person who was interested in people. She had a delightful sense of humor. You could sit and chat with her for hours."

When Blanck was treasurer of the LCA and the Baggers were doing their summaries, Blanck recalled, the Baggers would persistently urge him to include humor in his reports to the assembly to "liven up" the content. The Baggers, he remembered, also accumulated voluminous materials from their church work over the years. "When it came time for them to retire, downsize, and move from Norristown to Luther Crest they found it to be an impossible task," he said. While some of the materials went to the Archives at LTSP, because of the remaining volume the couple ended up combining two Luther Crest apartments into one in order to meet their needs, he said.

Over the years, the couple enjoyed vacationing in Vermont, and traveled to Canada, Japan, Europe, and India. They enjoyed hosting others including foster children and, at one time, a Vietnamese refugee family.

Surviving are four sisters-in-law, Vivian Hodges of New Brighton, MN; Mary Hodges of Wapello, IA; Carol Bagger Skinner, of Ithaca, NY, and Barbara Bagger Rhyne of Portland, OR, as well as nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.

A funeral service is scheduled for Sunday, August 25 at 4:00 pm at Christ Lutheran Church,1245 Hamilton St., Allentown, PA, 18102. Burial will be in Butler, PA at the convenience of the family. Arrangements are being handled by the Trexler Funeral Home in Allentown, and the Thompson-Miller Funeral Home in Butler, PA. Memorial gifts may be sent in care of the Bagger Library Endowment Fund at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, 7301 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19119, or contact Kathie Afflerbach, Director of Donor Services, 215-248-6324.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

J. Lawrence House dies: a friend to Lutheran Seminary donors for nearly 20 years

For Immediate Release
For more information contact: Merri Brown, Director of Communications,, 215-248-6323

J. Lawrence House dies: a friend to Lutheran Seminary donors for nearly 20 years

Philadelphia, PA (August 14, 2013) – J. Lawrence House, who over nearly 20 years was a dynamic, integral force in the growing giving initiative on behalf of the students, faculty, and staff of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), died unexpectedly Tuesday evening, August 13, at a Disney resort in Orlando, FL, where he was vacationing with his wife, Karen, and close family members. He was 63. Larry and Karen House lived in Plymouth Meeting and had been married 40 years.

Karen and Larry House were in Orlando following the August 3 wedding in Pennsylvania of their daughter, Katie, to Michael Burton, a Whitemarsh Township police officer. They vacationed several days together before being joined by other family members at the resort where House died. Katie and Michael were honeymooning elsewhere 

"Larry," as he was known, served two stints at LTSP. From 1991 to 2006 he was Director of Development, providing leadership in areas including the annual fund, alumni relations, major gifts, planned gifts, and two significant capital appeals – one for $8 million and one for $20 million. He then served in a similar capacity for three years as Vice President of Development for Liberty Lutheran Services, a Southeast Pennsylvania Lutheran Social Ministry Organization, before returning to LTSP in 2009 as Director of Leadership Giving. He also held the titles of Senior Major Gifts Officer and Senior Philanthropic Advisor, the post he held at the time of his death. A Certified Fund Raising Executive and rostered Associate in Ministry (AIM) with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), House, during his second seminary stint, focused on securing larger gifts through developing current gift strategies as well as assisting graduates and friends considering their ultimate stewardship through planned and estate gifts.

"I try to help people achieve their philanthropic goals," House would say. And his comprehensive experience in all aspects of fundraising made him well equipped to do so. For Larry House, the simpler moments in fundraising gave him greatest pleasure, he once said, for example seeing the look of joy on a donor's face when viewing the fruits of his or her giving on behalf of the school and its students. "That look always told me that everyone benefits when someone decides to give," House said.

The scope of annual giving increased more than 10-fold during House's first 15 years at the school. But numbers alone do not tell Larry House's story. Blessed with a rich and deeply resonant voice and easy-going humor, House was a gifted storyteller who seemed both at ease and inspirational before an audience, from the pulpit, or when sharing anecdotes about the school he loved in someone's living room. House often spoke without notes. He used to talk about the importance of building relationships through numerous personal visits as the way to attract financial support.

"Donors became his friends," Mark Staples recalled of House. Staples, former Director of Communications at LTSP, served many years with House as a colleague. "Larry House genuinely cared about people. And they cared about him. His mind and heart were storehouses of memories. He loved telling stories about the people he had come to know and value over so many years. A hallmark example of his visitation style was the annual trip he made to donors in Florida, accompanied by seminary Presidents Philip D.W. Krey and, before that, Robert G. Hughes."

Speaking the day after her dad's death, daughter Stina Schaeffer remarked simply, "My dad knew he was loved."

House began his career as a social worker for a Lutheran Social Ministry Organization in Northeastern Pennsylvania called Lutheran Welfare Services, based in Hazleton. He subsequently became a church and community program developer for the agency, and then its development director. He joined the development staff for the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg before coming to LTSP in 1991.

House belonged to Upper Dublin Lutheran Church, Ambler, PA, and was active in the congregation as well as being active in initiatives of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA, including serving on Synod Council.

"We are saddened to have lost a great servant of the church and seminary," said LTSP President Philip Krey. "Larry was a wonderful friend to all, and a masterful member of the Philanthropy staff. Our hearts and prayers go out to Karen and the family."

"Larry House is unlike any other fundraiser I have known," Dr. Robert Blanck, former chair of the LTSP Board of Trustees, said in 2006. "He's not simply a fundraiser. He sees donors as human beings. He doesn't really do it just for the money. He gets close to people and enjoys his dealings with them very much. With Larry, what you see is what you get. And I think that is why he is so successful. 

"Larry was a man of great generosity," said John V. Puotinen, Vice President for Philanthropy at LTSP and President of the LTSP Foundation. "He gladly shared his love for the church, his wealth of experience and knowledge of philanthropy and stewardship, and blessed all he met with warmth and good humor. He will be missed, but what he gave all of us will be gratefully remembered."

"Larry was an invaluable leader at LTSP," said the Rev. Dr. John Richter, former chair of the seminary's Board of Trustees. "His tireless efforts to encourage supporters to share their resources with the seminary have supported the education of a generation of rostered leaders. His sustaining ministry has been and will continue to be a blessing to many. The seminary community offers prayers of thanks for Larry's life and vocation. In the midst of sorrow, may we all rest in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection."

"Larry's premature departure from this life breaks my heart," said the Rev. Dyan Lawlor, lead pastor of Upper Dublin Lutheran Church. "Any pastor benefits greatly from having Larry's counsel, insight, and experience in building a solid and healthy foundation for the church's future. Pastor Keith Anderson and I surely owe him our deep thanks. But the ELCA, LTSP, and Upper Dublin have lost a 'Steward Extraordinaire.' Larry's big heart, contagious laugh, and endless devotion to securing the future of theological education were exemplary and successful." Lawlor noted House served Upper Dublin as Assisting Minister, usher, and Endowment Fund Chair, and also acted in church dramas both "serious and silly."

"My heart is full of love, respect, and affection, as well as grief, as Larry House has left us to claim his baptismal promise in Christ," Bishop Claire Schenot Burkat of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod said upon learning of House's unexpected death. "Larry will always be remembered as a man of contagious joy, deep faith, and great generosity in every way."

Surviving, with his widow Karen, are two daughters, the Rev. Stina, wife of Gary Schaeffer of Huntingdon Valley, PA and Katie, wife of Michael Burton of Conshohocken, PA; a son, Erick, who lives with his wife, Sarah, in Wyndmoor, PA; a brother, William, of Vero Beach, FL; and three grandchildren. Gary Schaeffer ('09) and Stina Schaeffer ('10) are LTSP alumni. The Rev. Stina is a pastor at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Huntingdon Valley, PA; and Gary is an Associate in Ministry at St. James Lutheran Church in Pottstown, PA.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

A publication quality photo of Larry House can be downloaded at

John Kahler
Media Consultant for The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia