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May 10, 2022

In Memory of William Kahlenberg: Kahlenberg Scholars Honor Devotion to Capital

Alan Shapiro was looking for the perfect way to honor the memory of his late husband the Rev. William Kahlenberg (’60, S ’64) when the perfect opportunity presented itself.

“He was very devoted to the university and the seminary,” Shapiro says of Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary. “I thought, ‘What is more appropriate than a gift to his alma mater?’”

Shapiro, a retired professor of archaeology and classics from Johns Hopkins University, discussed the idea with seminary staff and Kahlenberg Scholars was born.

Rev. Kahlenberg, who passed away in 2019, was of German descent and had frequently visited the country to study its history, culture and language. He once served as a guest preacher at Apostelkirche in Hamburg-Harburg for a year where he delivered sermons in German.

Students from Trinity who are selected as Kahlenberg Scholars will have a chance to discover Germany during a Lutherland and Oberammergau Tour this summer led by Dean Kathryn Kleinhans. Dean Kleinhans, a scholar of Lutheran history and theology, has led more than a dozen tours and seminars in Lutherland.

During their travels, the students will visit St. Thomas Church where Johann Sebastian Bach served as cantor for 25 years; visit Buchenwald, a former concentration camp; and take in the Passion Play, which was first performed in Oberammergau in 1634 and is now performed there every 10 years.

“I think it’s very important, if studying Lutheran theology, to see the places where Martin Luther lived and worked,” Shapiro says. “I think, for the students, it will be very inspiring to see all this.”

He and Kahlenberg had taken a similar trip on one of their many visits to Germany after meeting there in 2010 while waiting on line to purchase tickets to the opera. Shapiro fondly recalls his late husband’s love of music. “He was singing in three choirs in the Toledo area, and he had sung in the Glee Club at Capital,” Shapiro says. “It was, perhaps, his greatest passion.”

He also had a great love of organ music and was an usher for the Toledo symphony, in addition to serving as a pastor for many churches throughout his career.

Kahlenberg grew up as one of eight siblings in Pemberville, Ohio, which coincidentally has a sister city in Germany.

“In this farm community, I don’t think it was a regular thing to go away to college,” Shapiro remembers Kahlenberg telling him. “Both sets of grandparents lived in town and the grandparents, though they were American born, always spoke in German. To go away to college was a big deal.”

And, now, his memory will allow many others to see the world.