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LSTC mourns the death of Robert Tobias

Posted Oct 12, 2010

The Rev. Dr. Robert Tobias, 91, died in his sleep on Wednesday, October 6, 2010, at United Health Systems, Kenosha, Wis. Dr. Tobias served as professor of ecumenics at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago from 1964 until his retirement in 1987. He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Gertrude (Trudy) and their six children, seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. A funeral service was held October 10 at Holy Communion Lutheran Church in Racine, Wis.

“Robert Tobias helped shape LSTC’s ecumenical mark through his many relationships with leaders in other Christian denominations,” said LSTC’s Acting President Philip Hougen. “He was also the first head of the doctor of ministry program at LSTC and it still reflects his and the seminary’s commitment to ecumenics.”

A life of travel and teaching

Born and raised in Lyons, Kan., Robert Tobias went on to earn degrees from Phillips University in Oklahoma, Union Theological Seminary in New York, and the University of Geneva in Switzerland.

After World War II, Tobias was assistant director of the Department of Inter-Church Aid and Service to Refugees of the World Council of Churches with special responsibilities for East Europe and the Orthodox churches. He was a World Council of Churches observer of the Geneva sessions led by Eleanor Roosevelt in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Tobias received honors for his work in Europe. King Paul of Greece made him a Commander of the Royal Order of Phoenix. In Yugoslavia he was decorated by patriarchs German and Pavel with the Order of St. Sava. Tobias also received the “key to the city” in Geneva.

Before joining the faculty at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Tobias was professor of theology at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Ind.  He continued his visits with the Orthodox in East Europe and served on numerous commissions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and other ecumenical and international organizations.

Beginning in 1983 Robert co-chaired the sessions of the second round of Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue in North America and has written books and articles related to his work, including Heaven on Earth: A Lutheran-Orthodox Odyssey.

Tobias was an avid pilot, sailor, skier, and gardener, and he loved spending time with the many children that came into his life.

In his last days, his wife, Gertrude, transcribed Tobias’ words of gratitude: “Pilot, pastor, professor, there’ve been great touchdowns from Canada to Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with students, pastors, family, friends, and fellow explorers in the magnificent panorama of heaven on earth. Thank you all.”

Information taken from the Racine Journal-Times obituary.


Cheryl Hoth
Assistant to the Dean and V.P. for Academic Affairs

Jan Boden
Director of Communications

The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, forms visionary leaders who bear witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. It provides high-quality seminary and graduate education for women and men in a community that is global, multicultural, ecumenical, interfaith, and urban. LSTC faculty provides resources for the whole church through their research, writing, and workshops and presentations around the world. Graduates serve in every type of ministry setting as they work to realize the gospel vision of peace and justice.

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