- In Strength and Faith
- On Firm Foundation
- Our Fatherâ€™s World
- Knowing How, Knowing Why
- With Love and Hope Surrounded
- To Sacred Truth
- Play On Your Harp
- Coming Through Home
- Yesterday, Today, and Forever
- The One Thing Needful
- In the Face of the West Wind
- To Sacred Truth
- Not So Wild a Dream
- From Redemption to Renaissance
- Salty Days and Starry Nights
- A Holy Restlessness
- The Cross and the Glory
- Remarks - Chapel Dedication
- Tribute to Carl Bailey
Memorial Service for Carl L. Bailey
September 19, 2012
I speak today of the legacy of Carl Bailey my mentor, my colleague and my friend. I owe him a personal debt of gratitude which I can neither express nor repay. And what is true for me is true for Concordia College and the larger community as well. The writer of Genesis wrote “There were giants in the earth in those days and also after that…and they became mighty people which are of old, people of renown.” (Gen 6:4) Carl Bailey was one of Concordia College’s giants in the earth.
Carl was renowned first as a student, then as a faculty member, then as the longest serving dean in our history and finally as our chief elder. His achievements are catalogued in our history and in recent and coming press stories. He initiated our long range planning tradition, he recruited a first rate faculty, he led in the reformation of our curriculum, he initiated a faculty leaves and study program and the list goes on. But the place people always start—and where I will dwell in these remarks is his role in drafting our mission statement: The purpose of Concordia College is to influence the affairs of the world by sending into society thoughtful and informed men and women dedicated to the Christian life. Carl’s protestations to the contrary not withstanding, it was his prose. And while it may be somewhat unconventional, the text for this meditation is drawn substantially from his words—as a testament to his life and an inspiration for ours.
Let me call attention today to the ways in which Carl exemplified and exegeted this mission. In the process, I will use his words often. For example, it may surprise you to know that Carl had a somewhat jaundiced view of mission statements. Here’s what he wrote about them in 1989 as we were preparing Blueprint IV, our long range plan for the nineties. He said, and I quote:
“Like Heaven, Hell is tailored to the customer. I know mine. Old Scratch dumps on me a million college catalogs. He says—‘Read the statement of purpose in each of these; when you are done, write me a two-page paper for each, telling what it means and how it can work.’ If anything can get me to lead a virtuous life, that’s it. Because of all the deadly, dull and turgid prose ever invented, college catalog statements of purpose are surely the worst.”
He went on to suggest what a statement of purpose ought to look like:
“It should be clear to the understanding; it should allow translation into effective action; it should have a vitality and importance that generate the respect and allegiance…of the college.” The prose of Carl Bailey regarding our mission met all of those criteria and has been reaffirmed by each succeeding generation. It continues to be the college’s “true north” compass.
Carl continued to exegete this statement all through the years. He was particularly eloquent in dealing with that phrase “thoughtful and informed.” Consider this statement from a chapel speech in 1954, shortly after he had become dean of the college:
“We try to give the student some understanding of his relationship to God, some understanding of the nature of the world and of his own nature. We want to develop his powers of thought; to make him a critical person, in the best sense, capable of discriminating analysis and independent reason. We want to uncover for him the incredible riches of pleasure and entertainment which lie hidden in art and music and literature. We want to make him know that his specialty is not the world but only a small part of the world. We want him to be curious; to be questioning; to be thinking; in a word, to be alive.”
In 1967 he addressed the matter again:
“A horse is educated if he has learned to follow the rein; a dog is educated if he comes to heel. Shall we likewise say that a man is educated if he has learned to weld a seam, or to run a computer, or to read a meter, or to throw a ball or to sell a machine.
What does a farmer want with Shakespeare? Does a housewife need to know the ways of the stars and the planets? Are the thoughts of Aristotle and Kierkegaard important for a salesman?
We may say no: Shakespeare will not plow a straight furrow; the orbits of Mars and Venus will not bake bread; Aristotle closes no sales and writes no invoices. But to say this is to say that a man’s job is all that matters. And then a man is like a horse, or a dog, trained for his job as a horse or a dog is trained. No. There is more to a man than that.”
“Education is an awakening—an awakening to all the incredible riches of understanding and enlightenment which the world of learning contains, and to all the riches…which lie hidden in art and music and literature.”
“Education is a liberation—a liberation from the blindness of ignorance, from the chains of irrational thought, from the demons of prejudice.”
“…from education we get a kind of glory and a kind of humility. The glory of probing the depths of God’s creation; the humility of knowing our place. This is what makes education exciting.”
The heart of the mission statement, the motivation for our life as a College, is found in the closing phrase, “dedicated to the Christian life.” About this phrase Carl wrote the following in 1973:
“The integrating element for the curriculum and life of Concordia is the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. We confess that in Christ, God has particularly disclosed himself to mankind with love, forgiveness, and grace. He now calls us to faith by His Spirit, and invites us to live and serve in the name of Christ, growing in faith, abiding in hope, and continuing in fellowship. Within the framework of these affirmations, we find the foundations for our service to God, service to society, and service to individual persons.”
I have chosen to revisit Carl’s words today because of their substance and their eloquence. Underlying the eloquence was his vibrant, hopeful faith in which God calls and comforts and encourages all of us who mourn Carl’s passing and anticipate God’s great blessing.
Carl was a scientist; indeed, in the late forties, the world—professionally speaking—was at his fingertips. He could have gone anywhere to teach and do research in the burgeoning field of nuclear physics but he came here and his interest in science would hold strong all through the years. In these days when we hear the relationship between science and religion being the subject of dispute in some quarters, I refer to Carl’s wisdom when he said “I can study the scientific creation with all the freedom I like, without being in any way hampered in my views or progress as a Christian man, and regardless of what I find out I can always say as the Psalmist says ‘The Lord has been our dwelling place in all generations.’”
Carl’s Vocation was grounded in this deep faith. In January I heard news of a new and serious diagnosis of Carl’s physical condition. I stopped by to visit one day. As we so often did, we talked about the College: about both the good old days and the exciting new ones for Carl never fell into the trap of elder pessimism. Finally, we got around to the subject of his health. I asked him how he was doing. He described the diagnosis in somewhat clinical terms. It wasn’t good of course. And then at the end of it he said “but I’ve got Jesus you know.” We continued to visit from time to time over the ensuing months. Even last week, when breath was precious, we spoke of the splendor of our years together and every thought was expressed in a complete sentence; thoughtful, informed and eloquent!
He lived his Credo, a credo he expressed so thoughtfully in 1967 when he wrote “In the nature of things, our quest can never end. Who knows what lies within the foggy depth of the limitless world? I, for one, can hardly wait to find out....” And now the wait is over for our giant in the earth. And the epitaph is as clear and strong as we can make it: Soli Deo Gloria.
Paul J. Dovre