Dr. Carl Bailey 1918-2012
By Roger E. Degerman
Dr. Carl Bailey ’40 made his mark as a brilliant scientist, inspiring teacher, astute academic architect and humble man of faith. The author and exemplar of Concordia’s mission statement, Bailey has shaped generations of Cobbers through his words. His countless contributions to the college will never be forgotten.
“Carl Bailey was one of Concordia College’s giants in the earth,” said President Emeritus Dr. Paul Dovre, comparing Bailey’s impact to the biblical giants referenced in Genesis 6:4. “He was my mentor, my colleague and my friend. I owe him a personal debt of gratitude which I can neither express nor repay.”
Bailey, 94, died Sept. 15.
After graduating from Concordia with a degree in math and physics, Bailey went on to earn his master’s and doctorate degrees in physics from the University of Minnesota. From 1942 to 1946, he assisted on the Manhattan Project, which produced the first atomic bomb during World War II.
Bailey joined the Concordia faculty in 1947 and taught here for 41 years. During many of those years, from 1954 to 1971, he also served as Concordia’s academic dean.
President Joseph Knutson quickly came to admire and trust Bailey in his role as dean, giving him lofty praise for building Concordia’s faculty and curriculum.
As chronicled in Dr. Carroll Engelhardt’s history of Concordia, Knutson hailed Bailey as a Leonardo da Vinci who “lives the liberal arts ideal … and has given Concordia Christian leadership and scholastic glamour.”
Bailey built a strong physics department, securing key instruments to support research on campus. He helped raise academic standards and went to work recruiting a stronger faculty to shape Concordia’s future. Among his early hires was Dr. Olin Storvick, who came to Concordia in 1955 to teach Latin.
“When I joined the faculty, there were powerful people here,” says Storvick, still active at the college today as classicist-in-residence. “But I don’t think anybody had a greater influence on me as a beginning teacher than Carl Bailey. He modeled what he wanted us to be.
“He was a man of few words, and you had to wait for them. But they were worth waiting for.”
The poignant words of Bailey will forever be remembered, for they are etched in stone on Concordia’s campus – the college’s 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.
Storvick explains that he and Bailey were part of a committee charged with writing a mission statement as part of the long-range planning process Bailey established in the early 1960s.
“Of course, a committee can’t write anything,” Storvick says. “So Carl said, ‘Why don’t you let me take it home and work on it?’”
What Bailey crafted was nothing short of boldly aspirational. “I was struck by the extravagance of it,” says Storvick. “’Influence the affairs of the world’? Come on, we’re in Moorhead, what are you talking about?”
Fifty years later, Bailey’s “extravagant” mission statement endures as a guiding foundation for the college. As alumni faithfully live out the mission across the globe, Concordia’s faculty continues to prepare and challenge the newest generation of Cobbers to become responsibly engaged in the world.
Like the thousands he has inspired, Bailey embodied the mission he wrote, fully embracing the integration of intellect and faith in his work and life. As Dovre concluded in his memorial tribute to Bailey, “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 the epitaph is as clear and strong as we can make it: Soli Deo Gloria.”
Photos: Concordia College Archives/Sheldon Green