The Rev. Otto Paul Kretzmann grew up in New York City, the son and grandson of Lutheran pastors. A 1920 graduate of Concordia Collegiate Institute, Bronxville, New York, he received the Master of Sacred Theology degree in 1924 from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and pursued further graduate study at Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, and Chicago Universities. (Interestingly, all five of Kretzmann’s brothers also became Lutheran pastors). Before coming to Valpo, O.P., as he was affectionately known, was executive secretary of the international Lutheran youth organization, the Walther League, for six years. Prior to that, he served for ten years on the faculty of Concordia Seminary, Springfield, Illinois.
Known for his powerful and poetic style of oratory, Kretzmann began his productive 28-year presidency of Valparaiso University in 1940 with an inspiring inaugural address before a crowd of 2,000 people that set the tone for years to come. “Even in a climate of peril and war,”Kretzmann stated, “the University must continue its two-fold task: the search for Truth and the transmission of Truth, free and unbroken.” Kretzmann argued that the mission of the Christian university was not to disengage from the modern world; in fact, the Christian university could offer the modern world things the secular university could not: “Others may try to make men scientific; we must do that—and make them wise. Others may give men knowledge; we must give them that—and understanding. Others may try to make men useful; we must do that—and we must make them noble.”
During Kretzmann’s administration, a new campus was developed, enrollment grew from 400 to 4,000, the quality of many of the academic programs was enhanced, and the University became nationally recognized. He was the recipient of ten honorary doctorates. He died on Holy Cross day, September 14, 1975, in his 75th year.