The Concordia College community is mourning the loss and reflecting on the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Merlin D. Rehm, the College's beloved Emeritus Professor of Religion, who died on February 4, 2019.
After teaching at Concordia Senior College in Fort Wayne, the graduate of Harvard Divinity School joined Concordia’s religious faculty in 1977, and would go on to serve the College for twenty-eight years. A scholarly man with interests ranging from the ancient history of the Middle East to contemporary global affairs, he received three Fulbright grants, studying in Germany, Hungary and Egypt. He was a member of several prestigious organizations, including the Archaeological Institute of America, for which he was President Emeritus of the Westchester County chapter. He contributed to the work of many professional societies, and had scores of papers, publications and presentations on his resume. Concurrently serving as Parish Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church Scarsdale, he developed a series of public seminars with Concordia faculty on wide-ranging subjects.
In addition to his foundational role in Concordia’s theology department, Dr. Rehm served the College as Academic Dean, and from 1998 to 1999 stepped in as interim president between the administrations of Dr. Ralph Schultz and Dr. Viji George. In 1995, he was named Concordia's Duda Professor of Religion.
Dr. Mandana Nakhai, dean of the School of Humanities, remembers “an incredibly intelligent man whose words and actions were deeply rooted in his faith and love of humanity. His noble nature and keen sense of integrity significantly impacted the culture of Concordia. I always called him ‘our Henry Kissinger,’ not only because of his profound knowledge of history and his ability to make meaningful connections between the past and the present, but also because of the way he tackled sensitive issues with tact and diplomacy.”
Concordia Provost Dr. Sherry Fraser called Dr. Rehm “a true friend, dear colleague, mentor and role model who always looked for the good in people, especially his students. He was fair but firm and expected no less from himself than he did from his colleagues. His ability to be objective and see others’ points of view often resulted in wonderful conversations that left lasting impressions.”
When Professor of History Dr. Kathryn Galchutt arrived at Concordia she found in Dr. Rehm a distinguished colleague of great scholarly depth, with a thoughtful, considerate nature. On further acquaintance she realized that years before, he had been close to her parents through their service in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. “It is rare that your parents’ friends become your own,” she said. “Dr. Rehm impacted so many different kinds of people throughout his life, from engaging in Jewish-Christian dialogue in the community to coaching a church basketball team.”
Kathy Laoutaris, Director of Athletics, shared a telling insight into a man whose thoughtfulness touched so many. “While Rev. Rehm was interim president he would send an email to every team after each contest, thanking them for representing the College. He will be missed.”
He will be missed, indeed.
Details of Dr. Rehm’s memorial service can be found here.