Jonathan Messerli, Former Lutheran College President, Dies
12/3/2004 12:00:00 AM
of Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa., and Susquehanna
University, Selinsgrove, Pa., died Nov. 28 of apparent heart
Messerli, 78, was president of Muhlenberg from 1984 to 1992,
and was president of Susquehanna University from 1977 to 1984.
Muhlenberg and Susquehanna are among the 28 colleges and
universities of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
A memorial service for Messerli is planned for 2 p.m., Dec.
18 at the Muhlenberg College Chapel.
During his tenure at Muhlenberg, the $11.8 million Trexler
library was constructed and three of the college's oldest
buildings were renovated. The college's endowment nearly doubled
to $29 million during Messerli's tenure, and its Institute for
Jewish-Christian Understanding, a study abroad program and the
Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence programs were started, according
to the "Morning Call" newspaper, Allentown.
At the time of his death, Messerli was a member of the
boards of the Lehigh Valley (Pa.) Historical Society and the
Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, one of eight ELCA
seminaries. He had also served on the boards of the Bethphage
Mission, Omaha, Neb., Special Olympics in Pennsylvania and the
founding board of Lehigh Valley's Ambassador Bank.
Born in 1926 in Albany, Ore., Messerli earned a bachelor of
science degree in 1947 from Concordia College, River Forest, Ill.
In 1952 he earned a master's degree from Washington University,
St. Louis, and in 1963 he earned a doctorate degree in the
history of American education from Harvard University, Cambridge,
Messerli's professional career was in higher education.
From 1964 to 1968 he was a professor of history and education,
Teachers College, Columbia University, New York. From 1968 to
1973 he was dean and professor of education, School of Education,
Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y. From 1973 to 1977 he was
dean and professor of education, School of Education, Fordham
University, New York, before leaving to become president of
During his career, Messerli served as a Fellow, Hudson
Institute; member, New York State Regents Advisory Committee on
Teacher Education, Certification and Professional Standards; and
member of the advisory board, National Teacher Corps. From 1983
to 1984, he was chair of the Council of the Colleges of the
Lutheran Church in America, an ELCA predecessor church. In 1984
he was chair of the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent
Colleges; in 1986 Messerli was chair of the Pennsylvania Council
of Independent Colleges and Universities; and in the 1987 he was
a member of the review team, National Center of Post Secondary
Governance and Finance, U.S. Department of Education.
Messerli was an accomplished stonemason, bricklayer and
cabinetmaker. He and he and his wife of 50 years, Vi, restored
historic homes and barns. Vi Messerli preceded her husband in
death in 1998.
Messerli is survived by a daughter, Dr. Hannah R. Messerli,
New York and Kutztown, Pa.; a son, Timothy J., Allentown; two
brothers and a granddaughter.
Information about Muhlenberg College is at
http://www.muhlenberg.edu/ and about Susquehanna University is at
http://www.susqu.edu/ on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org