Yale University

Working at Yale

Q&A: Paul Stuehrenberg

Paul S againYears at Yale: 30 years
Title: Divinity Librarian
First job at Yale: Catalogue librarian
A bachelor’s degree from Concordia Senior College (Ft. Wayne, IN), a Master of Divinity from Concordia Seminary and a Master of Sacred Theology from Christ Seminary, both in St. Louis.  Also holds a Master of Library Science and a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Minnesota. 
Family: Married to Carole DeVore, who has two children, both of whom teach English at the university level. Together, they have four grandchildren. DeVore worked at Yale as an administrator in the Physics Department for 25 years prior to her retirement.

Paul Stuehrenberg is only the third librarian in the history of the Divinity School since Raymond Morris held the first position in 1932. Stuehrenberg came to the School’s library in May 1982 as a catalogue librarian. Three years later, he assumed responsibility for monograph acquisitions. In 1991, Stuehrenberg became Divinity librarian when his predecessor, Stephen L. Peterson, left Yale to become the director of the Trinity College (Hartford) Library.

While at Yale, Stuehrenberg has also had a career as a scholar. He is the author of many published papers in scholarly journals and reference works and is active in the Pacific History Association, the International Association for Mission Studies, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the American Theological Library Association—for which he once served as president. An ordained Lutheran minister, Stuehrenberg is the director of the Lutheran Studies Program at Yale. He currently serves as adjunct pastor of Bethesda Lutheran Church in New Haven, where he is a member of the choir and the chair of the Worship & Music Committee.  

One important facet of Stuehrenberg’s work is his involvement with international archives. When Kenneth Scott Latourette, professor of Missions at Yale, died in 1968, he endowed his estate to Yale’s missions collection. But the indenture was restricted to world missions, and the money could not all be spent as originally specified. Stuehrenberg helped direct funds to a microfilming program. The Divinity Library identifies collections relating to the documentation of Christian missions and world Christianity that complement Yale’s and arranges to have the collections microfilmed. The Latourette fund pays for the filming. In pursuit of these projects, Stuehrenberg has traveled all over the globe.


Has travelling always been an interest of yours?
Well, not always. When I was growing up, we never went very far because we lived on a farm and had cows. Once I was able to travel, I enjoyed it. I have always been interested in other cultures and how people lived.

Could you provide some details about the microfilming project?
Yes. Our first projects were archival collections at the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva and the University of Edinburgh. At the WCC, we filmed such collections as the Programme to Combat Racism and Dialogue with Peoples of Other Faiths. The Edinburgh collections included the archives of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union and the Sudan United Mission.

Our next project was at Uganda Christian University, where we filmed the archives of the Anglican Church inl Uganda. At the Gujarat United School of Theology in India, we captured on film the archives of the Gujarat Diocese of the Church of North India.

We also joined the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau, which goes around the Pacific microfilming primary source material—including a lot of church records. Yale is one of ten libraries that makes up the Bureau, which is comprised of libraries from Australia and New Zealand as well as the University of Hawaii, University of California at San Diego and the University of Michigan. In the last several years, I‘ve represented Yale at the Bureau's management committee meetings in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa and New Caledonia.

Have you travelled anywhere recently?
My most recent trip was to Hong Kong last November. The Divinity School sponsored a project with Hong Kong Baptist University to digitize the periodicals of various Hong Kong denominations, and they were having a celebration to mark the conclusion of the project. I spoke about the Latourette initiative and then met with the university's librarian and archivist. We put together an ongoing project where they identify Chinese language material and we microfilm it.  One of our first projects is to digitize and then produce computer-output microfilm of the publications of the Chinese Christian Literature Council. We are working with them to identify additional material.

Do you then host scholars here in New Haven?
Yes, there are visiting scholars. One of the hats I wear is director of the Visiting Fellows Program for the Divinity School. We work with various Yale offices to make it possible for these people to come—getting them IDs, etc. But then we also have many international scholars who come to use materials in our library without an official appointment. The Divinity Library has one of the largest collections in the world documenting Christianity in China, in addition to having one of the most comprehensive theology collections anywhere.

How did Yale acquire this material?
In the 1970s, the National Council of Churches had a program called the China Records Project, which was trying to get missionaries to give their papers to an archive. If individuals didn’t have a place for their papers, they were invited to send them to Yale. So we now have the personal papers of more than 500 missionaries, as well as the archives from several organizations that worked in China.

Do you have any favorite memories from the trips you’ve taken?
Oh, each of the trips has given me something special to remember. When we traveled to Fiji, we arrived several days early to adjust to the time, and stayed at a resort that was just absolutely wonderful. I was able to take my morning walk along the beach. Another time, we arranged a microfilming project at the Melbourne School of Theology just outside of Melbourne, Australia. My nephew lives in Melbourne, so he took us around. We saw the Victoria Market in Melbourne, visited a vineyard, and took a tour of the Great Ocean Road.

How did you come to work at Yale?
I was at the University of Minnesota and wanted to work in a theological library. I decided that since I had lived in the Midwest my whole life, it would be nice to live on one or the other coast. So I started watching for positions and the first opening I noticed was at Yale. I applied for the job and got it. I’ve been here ever since.

Where in the Midwest did you grow up?
I was born on a farm in West Central Minnesota. The nearest town, Breckenridge, was ten miles from our farm. My parents were also born in Minnesota. My great grandparents immigrated to the United States in the 1890s.  My mother’s family came from Sweden and my father’s from Germany.

Did you work on the farm?
I did—all the way through college. Ours was a family farm. My father farmed with his two brothers. So I grew up working with my uncles and cousins.  I enjoyed most of it, but not enough to become a farmer myself. We had cows and a calf that I took to the county fair. I got a blue ribbon. I also got blue ribbons for my chickens. That was always fun. Today my brother, sister and I still own the farm and my cousin farms it.

Was church an important part of your upbringing?
The church that we belonged to was very important when I was growing up. It was out in the country and was one of the social centers because it built a great sense of community. So it was never just a church on Sundays.

It sounds like the church certainly had an impact on you.
Oh yes, very much. It was because of my experience with the Sunday school teachers –one of them was my aunt Arda Stuehrenberg--and the pastors that I decided I wanted to study for the ministry. But I was not the only one. The sons of both my father’s brothers also chose the ministry. My older cousin is now a retired parish pastor in Colorado and my younger cousin is a pastor in Florida.

Who would you name as a role model, mentor, or source of inspiration?
Probably in terms of role models it would be my predecessor, who hired me, Steven Peterson. He really taught me much of what I know today about what it means to be a theological librarian.

What of your many accomplishments are you most proud?
I think one would be the Latourette Initiative, which has been successful and will be continuing. I enjoy working to build the collections. Another hat that I wear is the director of the Lutheran Studies Program here. There is a steady stream of Lutheran students who come to Yale, even though there aren’t Lutheran faculty at the Divinity School just now. I think they come at least partly because of this program.

What advice do you have for others building a career at Yale?
Within the library, it’s important that first of all you become very good at your job. But then also that you are a good citizen of the University and do things outside of your department to help to make decisions, to move things along. It is also important to be professionally active. Yale has always encouraged all of this.