A parish pastor and national leader in social service ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The Rev. Dr. G. Frederick Aigner has devoted his life to serving others.
For 23 years, Aigner was a faithful pastor to congregations in California, Missouri and Illinois, before being named president and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois in 1997. The 138-year-old statewide, not-for-profit agency with an operating budget of more than $90 million annually serves thousands of people of all ages, races and beliefs through a variety of programs from counseling and nursing care to early childhood education.
Yet it was Aigner’s experience at Wittenberg that he believes shaped his commitment to service and set him on a theological course.
“When I attended in the early ’60s, the mission of Wittenberg was to help educate ‘the creative minority of a civilization,’” Aigner recalled. “I know that now seems somewhat presumptuous, and perhaps even will be recast. But as I think about it, that fundamental purpose, along with the attempt to preserve, renew and extend the viability of a society and a civilization, have been profound shapers of my values and life.
“Most of what I have been about has centered around community, creativity and service, all in the context of the church,” he continued. “My work pastoring three congregations and now leading a social ministry organization of the church is of a piece with the purpose that Wittenberg has sought to serve. Add to that the high value of seeking to fill the lacunae of a student’s mind – the sine qua non of a liberal arts education – and I realize that that is largely how I have spent my personal and professional life.”
Wittenberg recognized Aigner’s life of service by awarding him an honorary degree of doctor of divinity, May 14, during Commencement.
“Wittenberg, and universities like it, create an environment where a passion for learning and for social ministry is encouraged and fostered,” Aigner said. “I am deeply grateful.”