Hedahl, First Stuempfle Professor of the Proclamation of the Word Resigns to Focus on Health
Following two decades of dedicated professorial service, during which she mentored hundreds of seminarians in the art of preaching, the Rev. Dr. Susan K. Hedahl has announced her resignation from teaching duties at Gettysburg Seminary effective August 31, 2012. The first recipient of the distinguished Herman G. Stuempfle Chair of the Proclamation of the Word at Gettysburg Seminary, Hedahl recently underwent surgery and was diagnosed with brain cancer. Following consultation with her doctors, she has concluded that the rigors of treatment are likely to make it impossible for her to continue teaching and fulfilling the many other responsibilities of a tenured faculty member.
In a letter announcing her plans to enter retirement this fall, Hedahl stated, “My teaching at the Seminary in the past two decades has been a privilege unlike any other offered me in my life. With gratitude for the multiple partnerships we share in proclaiming the Gospel, partnerships that will never cease, I remain thankful that in my flesh I may proclaim!”
A native of Minnesota, Hedahl received her undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota. She taught English as a missionary in Tanzania, East Africa from 1969-1972, after which she studied and received the Master of Divinity degree at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ordained to the Lutheran ministry in 1975, she was among the pioneering first generation of Lutheran women pastors in this country. She served in campus and parish ministry at University Lutheran Church of Hope, Minneapolis, and with two other Minnesota congregations. While engaged in graduate study for her Ph.D. in rhetoric and homiletics from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, Hedahl served eleven Lutheran congregations as interim pastor. She began her full-time teaching career at Gettysburg Seminary in 1992.
In addition to her work with students in the classroom, Hedahl directed the Seminary’s advanced degree program for a number of years, and also re-launched and edited its academic publication, the Seminary Ridge Review. She has been appreciated for her strong leadership in women’s issues, helping the Church become more inclusive, and heeding the call to social justice. A prolific author, Hedahl published eight books and many articles on the art and craft of preaching. She shared her wide-ranging voracious reading habits with a broad internet community through a voluminous collection of book reviews published on the Seminary website and elsewhere.
In response to her announcement, Seminary President Michael Cooper-White stated: “This news is a huge loss to the Gettysburg Seminary where Susan Hedahl has been a powerful presence in our school’s mission for the past twenty years. She was one of the authors of our current vision statement, which locates us as ‘Bearing Witness at the Crossroads of History and Hope, Proclaiming Jesus Christ to a restless world . . .’ The way she is facing this sudden invasion of cancer with enormous courage and grace is a profound witness to us all. Truly, she ‘practices what she preaches’ and the Church’s proclamation of the Word of God is stronger and bolder as a result of her influence.”
In light of the unexpected faculty change, the Rev. Robin Steinke, Dean of the Seminary, will be making arrangements for the Seminary to cover the teaching of homiletics courses for this fall term and beyond.
In order to best support her primary focus on treatment during the coming weeks, Hedahl requests that students, faculty and staff colleagues and friends communicate with her through written cards and notes only at this point in time. These communications may be sent to her in care of the Seminary, 61 Seminary Ridge, Gettysburg, PA 17325.