Editor's Note: This story was written for the 2018 Spring/Summer Arbor Light magazine, a biannual publication of Concordia University Ann Arbor. Catch the newest edition dropping in mailboxes at the end of April. For your free subscription of Arbor Light, email email@example.com.
Rev. Terry Cripe (’68) knew he wanted to become a pastor since he was 5 years old. Inspired by his pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Sturgis, Michigan, young Cripe emulated the preacher so often that his mom dressed him up in a pastor costume, complete with a hand-sewn cassock, for a photo that remains close to Cripe to this day. As Cripe readies for his retirement as president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Ohio District later this year, he reflects on his time preparing for his long-desired calling at CUAA.
Q: Why did you choose CUAA?
A: While in junior high school, my parents and I made the drive to what was then named Concordia College, from Warsaw, Indiana, to see the campus and start preparing for my journey to become a pastor. Unfortunately, it was 1963 and all that we got to see were a bunch of signs and a pile of dirt. The campus was still being built, but I knew that was where I wanted to go. I stayed in touch with the campus throughout high school and applied as soon as I could.
Q: Describe a fond memory of your time on campus.
A: So many fond memories: The formative bond that I shared with the other pre-seminary students was something that I really appreciated about my time at CUAA. We got to know each other personally and understood what each other was going through. I’m also envious of the theatre and black box that’s now on campus. Back in my day we performed on risers in the gym. One time we were doing a play where we were interacting with the audience, and I nearly fell off the risers and could barely get through the rest of my lines because I couldn’t stop imagining a fall.
Q: Are there any campus traditions that you remember?
A: A fun tradition, that they don’t do anymore, was house decorating for different historical events. One year my house was assigned the Civil War, so we created a battle scene on the first floor with two canons pointing at each other and actual dirt on the floor. In the basement, we recreated a somber burial scene with candles and a coffin to the soundtrack of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” We took first place that year and spent the entire next day sweeping everything up.
A lifetime train aficionado, Rev. Terry Cripe looks forward to many more rail rides in his retirement.
Q: Do you think your dirt floor had anything to do with the demise of this beloved tradition?
A: (laughs) More likely it was because another house flooded their sunken floor to resemble an ocean battle scene!
Q: What does your daily life entail as a district president?
A: When I was in school I had to interview someone working in the field, so I interviewed a pastor and he described his job as a jack-of-all-trades, and that is a perfect description. I never get bored. I believe in doing as many visitations as I’m able and am only behind a desk when the task absolutely requires it. Since 2006, I’ve racked up 322,000 miles on my Honda Accord. I mostly listen, evaluate, and provide guidance to congregations in the District.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: After 12 years as district president, I’ll step down on August 31. I look forward to spending more time with my wife, Marlene, who recently retired; and our daughters, Leah and Sarah; and our grandchildren. My granddaughter, Kaytlynn, is a sophomore at CUAA and plays on the basketball team.
Q: What advice do you have for Concordia students?
A: Be thankful that you get to be at this wonderful place for four years; I regret that our program was only two years. Take advantage of all that Ann Arbor and the campus have to offer. The time goes by so fast! Enjoy it all while you can.
Q: Any last thoughts?
A: I am extremely grateful to God for President Ferry and his administrators for bringing this campus back to life. It is nothing short of a miracle. Marvelous!
Join Cripe and other Class of 1968 Concordians on May 19-20, 2018 for the 50th Reunion Weekend on CUAA’s campus. For more information, visit cuaa.edu/classof68.
If this story has inspired you, why not explore how you can help further Concordia's mission through giving.