James Hofrenning retired from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., in 1993 but the effect of his 29 years as a professor of religion is still being felt by the college and the surrounding communities.
“Two things about Jim’s work endure and define Concordia,” said Per Anderson, a religion professor at the school. “First, Jim was outward looking — first in helping our students to know the world beyond their typically small-town upbringings.
Anderson said Hofrenning helped establish the Faith, Reason, and World Affairs Symposium, which brings global issues to the attention of students.
“Second, Jim was outward looking in wanting to share the resources of the college with the region,” he said. Anderson said he founded a program that offered college courses to the community and the Charis Ecumenical Center.
Hofrenning, of St. Paul, died on March 28. He was 94.
“The outreach and institution-building he led continue today in our department and at our college,” said Anderson. “Our graduates, the college, and the department are much better because of Jim. Thanks be to God for the life of James Hofrenning.”
Hofrenning was born in 1926 in Harvey, N.D., to the Rev. Bernt Hofrenning and Anna Hofrenning. He grew up in Pinecreek in Dieter Township in northwestern Minnesota. He attended high school in Badger, Minn. Because of the distance, 16 miles, Hofrenning boarded with a family during the school year and then returned home on weekends.
“One story my dad told was that he would accompany my grandfather during his three-point Sunday morning parish,” leading services at three churches, said son Dan Hofrenning, a professor at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.
After graduating from high school in 1944, he enrolled at Concordia, But after six weeks, he entered the U.S. Army. After the war he returned to Concordia.
He graduated from Concordia in 1950 and from Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul in 1953. The next year, he was awarded a doctorate of theology from New York University and became a pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, N.Y. He served there nine years before returning joining the staff at Concordia in 1964.
In 1965, Hofrenning created an adult education program, called Fargo-Moorhead Communiversity. The program was a four-weekend program that offered more than 40 courses on a variety of topics.
Among the classes he taught at Concordia were classes on ethics and the church and society. One of the most popular classes he taught was “Death and Dying.” He also served as the chairman of the school’s Religion Department.
“Perhaps his most significant gift was connecting the college and his students with the broader culture,” said former Concordia President Paul Dovre. “He did this by engaging his students in the racial and urban crises of the ’60s, by initiating new forums for ecumenical conversation, by reaching out to the needs and aspirations of the Fargo-Moorhead community, by overseeing an annual community conversation about faith and human affairs, and through teaching and preaching that spoke to both head and heart. He was one of the true giants of this community and Concordia College.
“His creativity and passion were infectious and his public service was extraordinary. May his spirit live on.”
In addition to his son Dan, Hofrenning is survived by his wife, Ingeborg; son Peter and daughter Kathryn, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A memorial service will be held later.