Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spotlight on Luther Harshbarger

Jason writing again! Once again, we are going to do a spotlight on someone Opa probably never met, but I’ve enjoyed learning about all these students who were working on refugee placement through this time. Many of them went on to do really wonderful things and Luther’s story is no different. Much thanks to his sons, Dohn and Scott, for providing a biography and the other resource I used was from a history of the Lordship Community Church in Stratford, CT. Enjoy the below spotlight on Luther H. Harshbarger!

Luther H. Harshbarger was born on December 4, 1914 in Lewistown. He graduated from McVeytown H.S. in 1932. He attended Millersville State College and graduated in 1939 from McPherson College in Kansas. After McPherson, he served Salem Community Church in Nickerson, KS. He also served as advisor to the Young Peoples cabinet of that state. At the time, both Mr. and Mrs. Harshbarger were directors of the Amity House Association at Woodbridge where settlement work is carried on for the Italian-American residents of that community.

He studied at Bethany Seminary in Chicago and graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1942 where he studied under Richard Niebuhr among others, and became an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. During his time in seminary, he served as pastor of Lordship Community Church in Connecticut. Upon graduating from Yale, he went to Pennsylvania to serve a Church of the Brethren church in Ambler, PA.

Luther traveled to the U.K. before the end of WWII and worked with prisoners of war after the war ended. He subsequently became Director of the YMCA’s in Europe. In 1949 he returned to the United States as YMCA Director at Penn State University. In 1952 he became University Chaplain and Coordinator of Religious Affairs. During his tenure as Chaplin, the Helen Eakin Eisenhower Chapel was constructed with President Eisenhower attending the dedication.

After teaching Religious Studies courses part-time as Professor of Religious Studies while Chaplain, Luther was named Head of the newly-created Department of Religious Studies by President Eric Walker in the 1960’s. He served in that capacity until near his retirement in 1980. He died in September, 1986.

Luther was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by Juniata College in 1955. He wrote numerous articles for journals and magazines over the years and in 1968, he co-authored with John Mourant the textbook, “Judaism and Christianity”. He received the Lions Paw award for outstanding service to the University by Penn State in 1985. At the time of his retirement, the Luther H. Harshbarger Endowed Fund was created which underwrites the Harshbarger Lecture Series in Religious Studies and provides scholarship funds for students taking Religious Studies courses. The lounge in the Eisenhower Chapel was named the Luther H. Harshbarger Lounge in 1987.

Luther was married to Marian Masemore Harshbarger who died in 1995. He has two sons, Scott and Dohn, and three grandsons, Michael, Benjamin and David.

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