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Doug Oldenburg, Seventh President of Columbia Theological Seminary, Dies at 85

President emeritus remembered fondly for his passion for theological education 

July 23, 2020— In witness to the resurrection, Columbia Theological Seminary gives thanks for the life and ministry of president emeritus Douglas Oldenburg. He served as the seventh seminary president, from 1987-2000, and was a transformative presence on campus. In 2018, Oldenburg was awarded the Theological Education Award by the Committee on Theological Education at the 2018 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). The Oldenburg Quadrangle, the visual and social center of the campus, is named for him. At his heart, he was a pastor who loved God and served the church with faithfulness and excellence. 

“I am grateful for the faithful service of Doug Oldenburg and for the ways he continued to support and encourage the mission of Columbia Seminary after he left his leadership position,” says current Columbia Seminary President Leanne Van Dyk. “He and Claudia so loved Columbia and that love has blessed us.”  

“President Oldenburg exemplified a rare combination of pastoral sensibilities and executive leadership skills needed by a seminary,” says Dr. Marcia Y. Riggs, J. Erskine Love Professor of Christian Ethics and seminary ombudsperson. “He was the president of the seminary when I was appointed to the faculty.  By confirming my appointment as the first African American person to a tenure-track position, President Oldenburg set the seminary on a course toward racial-ethnic and gender inclusion and diversity that is now bearing fruit.”  

In his history of Columbia Theological Seminary, To Count Our Days, Dr. T. Erskine Clarke, Professor Emeritus of American Religious History, notes that Oldenburg’s tenure as president was marked by a quest for excellence and a pastoral heart: “Like so many others, I am deeply grateful for Doug’s remarkable leadership of Columbia — a leadership rooted in his long experience as a pastor and his commitment to the ministry of the Presbyterian Church. He was a person of deep faith who possessed a great vision for Columbia. He consequently had high expectations of excellence for himself and for those called to the faculty–and he was not afraid to make hard decisions in the quest for such excellence. The center of today’s campus reflects his aesthetic spirit and his delight in what is beautiful and good.” 

Dr. Rodger Nishioka, former faculty member at Columbia and Senior Associate Pastor and Director of Adult Educational Ministries at Village Presbyterian Church, remembers Oldenburg for his integrity, wisdom and graciousness, which marked his leadership as president and earned him the respect of the faculty. 

As Oldenburg ended his tenure at Columbia, he was elected as the Moderator of the 210th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). He emphasized Theological Education during his year as moderator.  

Oldenburg served as a pastor in Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina before serving as president of Columbia. Oldenburg was a graduate of Davidson College and Yale Divinity School. He was awarded four honorary Doctorate of Divinity degrees from Rhodes College, Budapest Reformed Theological Academy, St. Andrews Presbyterian College, and Davis and Elkins College, and two honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Hastings College and Davidson College.  Throughout his career, Oldenburg shared his passion for theological education.  

A virtual memorial service has been scheduled for Wednesday, July 29, at 11:00 a.m. Read Dr. Doug Oldenburg’s obituary and find the link to his memorial at https://www.jamesfuneralhomelkn.com/obituaries/Douglas-Oldenburg/#!/Obituary 

Condolences or notes to Claudia Oldenburg may be sent to:

The Pines at Davidson
Attention: Claudia Oldenburg
Apartment 309
400 Avinger Lane
Davidson, N.C. 28036


About Columbia Theological Seminary   

Columbia Theological Seminary’s exists to cultivate faithful leaders for God’s changing world. As the most diverse educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Columbia Seminary is a community of theological inquiry, leadership development, and formation for ministry in the service of the Church and the world. Columbia offers six masters and doctoral degree programs, and opportunities for continuing education through The Center for Lifelong Learning. For more information, please visit our website: ctsnet.edu.    




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