Richard C. Detweiler

Sixth President, 1980-87

The EMC board recruited a respected 55-year-old churchman from eastern Pennsylvania to succeed Myron Augsburger. He was elected as of July 1980 but did not officially take office until a year later.

The new president was Richard C. Detweiler, moderator of Franconia Mennonite Conference, director of the conference’s leadership training program, pastor of Souderton Mennonite Church, and former principal of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School. During the 1976-1977 academic year, he had served as interim dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary.

A graduate of EMC, Detweiler earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary.

During his presidency, Detweiler strengthened the school’s relations with its church constituency, describing the purpose of EMC&S as “equipping persons for the mission of Jesus Christ and his church in the world.” He focused on leadership training for service, teaching several classes himself, most notably a course named “Faith Development.”

During the Detweiler years the governance of EMC&S shifted from its 32-member board to the denomination’s Board of Education. In the process, the EMC board’s size was reduced.

Under Detweiler, then-academic dean Albert Keim led a consultative process with the faculty that resulted in one of the cornerstones of undergraduate education to this day: a requirement, beginning in 1982, that students be exposed to cross-cultural matters through study and experience.

The biggest crisis of Detweiler’s tenure was the 1984 fire that destroyed the Administration Building during a major renovation. The building was unoccupied at the time, but the tragedy affected campus morale, and Detweiler faced the challenge of slumping enrollments and budget cuts that affected faculty and programs.

By the time he left EMC&S, however, the student population was on the increase again and a striking new Campus Center stood on the side of the hill where the “Ad” Building had once stood. The Campus Center, completed in 1986, was the first building to follow a new policy that facilities were to be constructed debt-free and that an endowment fund be set aside for upkeep.

In 1987, Detweiler resigned from the presidency, saying his years at EMC&S were “the most enjoyable and most difficult” of his life.

After one year as pastor of Harrisonburg Mennonite Church, he returned to Pennsylvania, resuming some of his work with Franconia Conference, including serving as the conference’s director of pastoral education. He preached frequently in churches near and far.

After a 16-month illness that turned out to be cancer and other ailments, Detweiler died in 1991 at age 66.

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