Phyllis E. Buehner Duesenberg, 86, passed away on June 12, 2019. Mrs. Duesenberg was born in Kerala, southern India, to missionary parents. Mrs. Duesenberg graduated from Valparaiso University in 1954 with a B.A. in French. In 1955, she married Valpo alumnus Richard “Dick” W. Duesenberg ’51, ’53L, LLD ’01.
Throughout her life, Mrs. Duesenberg was devoted to her family and to serving the Lutheran Church. She began her career as a teacher at Immanuel Lutheran School in Valparaiso and later taught at Hamden Hall Country Day School in Connecticut while her husband attended Yale Law School. She steadfastly supported her husband in his career and raised the couple’s daughter and three sons.
For more than 20 years, Mrs. Duesenberg served on the Board of Directors of the Concordia Historical Institute, an organization dedicated to collecting and preserving the history of the Lutheran Church. She also served for two decades on the Board of Directors of the Lutheran Music Program, an institution that has enriched the lives of thousands of high school students with an intense, life-changing experience studying music within a community of faith. Mrs. Duesenberg also co-founded “Bach at the Sem,” a series of concerts held at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis designed to strengthen the Lutheran Church through performance of the music of premier Lutheran composers. And she arranged for leading choirs of Germany to travel to and perform sacred choral works in the United States.
Mrs. Duesenberg was deeply grateful for the opportunities that Valparaiso University provided her when, as a teenager, she came to the United States seeking a college education. Her eternal gratitude is evident across campus. She was a driving force in the funding, design, and construction of the University’s German Cultural Center, Center for the Arts, and Welcome Center. She secured important works of art for the Brauer Museum of Art and was instrumental in establishing the Bach Institute. In addition, she served as a co-chair for the Three Goals, One Promise campaign, and she and her husband have endowed four University chairs: The Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg Chair in Religion and the Arts, in Lutheran Music, in Christian Ethics, and one in the Law School.
Valparaiso University recognized Mrs. Duesenberg with an Alumni Service Award in 1997, an honorary doctor of arts in 2004, and the Lumen Christi Medal, Valparaiso University’s highest honor given in recognition of service to church and society, in 2006. Mrs. Duesenberg was named one of Valparaiso University’s 150 Most Influential People in 2009.
In 2017, the Federal Republic of Germany recognized Mrs. Duesenberg for her work in the arts by bestowing on her the Cross of Merit, First Class, an award given for extraordinary
service to the nation.
Mrs. Duesenberg is survived by her husband, Dick Duesenberg, four children — Karen Duesenberg Collier, Daryl R. Duesenberg ’82, Mark H. Duesenberg ’84, Dr. David A. Duesenberg ’86, her sister Dorothy P. Buehner Golnick, and seven grandchildren.
Gifts in memory of Mrs. Duesenberg may be directed to the Forever Valpo campaign, give.valpo.edu.