Photo Courtesy of CUNE Marketing Department
By Autumn Johnson
Archivist Jerry Pfabe, who officially retired in 2010, is teaching his final course at Concordia this semester. He has been a professor at Concordia for the last 52 years.
“In some ways it’s a little scary,” Pfabe said. “Because what I’ve been doing for over 50 years, I’m not going to be doing anymore.”
Pfabe accepted a call to Concordia in 1967 after teaching and coaching for six years at Lutheran High School Central in St. Louis, Missouri. His initial call was to teach U.S. history and U.S. foreign relations. He was also asked to teach methods of secondary social studies.
“That was kind of interesting because when I came out here there was a lot of interest in some innovation in teaching methodology … and that kind of intrigued me,” Pfabe said.
Pfabe has since taught a variety of courses in history, multicultural studies and Spanish. He started learning Spanish around 1974 to aid his teaching of Latin American history and was asked to teach Spanish about 10 years later.
“I had no plan of doing that,” Pfabe said. “I had actually started learning Spanish much too late in life. I started teaching beginning Spanish with very, very few students. And then through the years we enlarged the program to where it is now.”
Pfabe has continued to teach Spanish part time for the last nine years, even though he is retired. He currently teaches Latin American culture in Spanish and is the archivist of the university.
Pfabe’s archivist position is not compensated in any way. His work helps keep Concordia’s past alive, and has been crucial for histories such as Sower Administrator Ellen Beck’s “Break Forth and Sing for Joy: Concordia Nebraska’s Song for 125 Years.”
“Officially I’m professor emeritus of history which means I’m old and retired,” Pfabe said. “But I’ve been doing the archive work at Concordia. I started that around 1970 and that was something I wanted to keep doing.”
Pfabe has also done research of Seward County in his retirement and has written two research articles. “Divorce in Seward County, Nebraska, 1869-1906” was published in a 2016 issue of Nebraska History Magazine. This year, “Crime in Seward County, Nebraska, 1869-1908” was published. Pfabe has another article in the works to be published soon.
“I didn’t find that I had enough time when I was teaching full time to do research, but now I have that opportunity,” Pfabe said. “It’s been very enjoyable.”
Pfabe has worked with and impacted many people in his time at Concordia. President Brian Friedrich is glad to have known Pfabe.
“A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Pfabe reminded me that we are ‘going out together’ … I can’t think of a person I would rather ‘go out with’ than Dr. Pfabe,” Friedrich said. “He has been an incredible mentor, friend and supporter of me during the past 28 years. I have been so blessed to know him and serve with him.”
Assistant Professor of Spanish Amy Royuk has worked with Pfabe since he retired and is excited about the growth of the Spanish program.
“It was an honor to serve alongside Dr. Pfabe as a fellow adjunct in the Spanish department for several years, as he and I worked together to expand our course offerings and to cultivate the program,” Royuk said.
The loss of Pfabe will be felt deeply throughout Concordia.
“In a world where it seems everything and everyone is replaceable, that is not true of Dr. Pfabe,” Friedrich said. “He is an amazing servant to all. The affirmation of current students and the appreciation of alumni who learned from him and faculty who taught with him demonstrates the invaluable contribution he has made to Concordia. He is a legend and will always be in the hearts of those whom he taught and with whom he served.”
Pfabe has taught thousands of students who will remember his character. Even those who took only a few of his classes will miss him.
“He wants us as students to not only hit the surface level stuff, but the deep stuff as well and he’s a good teacher and wants to support us,” junior Michaela Twito said. “I’m (going) to really miss that a lot … and I want to be like him when I grow up.”