Obituary: Robert Kreider

Robert Stanford Kreider died on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, at his home in North Newton.

Robert Kreider
Robert Kreider

Robert was born Jan. 2, 1919, in Sterling, Ill., son of Amos and Stella (Shoemaker) Kreider. In 1921, the family moved to Goshen, Ind., and in 1926 to Bluffton, Ohio. In 1929, Robert was baptized in the First Mennonite Church, Bluffton.

In 1935, the family relocated to Newton, and Robert entered Bethel College where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in history. In 1941, Robert earned a master of arts in social ethics from the University of Chicago Divinity School.

As a conscientious objector to war, Kreider was drafted into Civilian Public Service (CPS) from 1941 to 1945. His years of service included Assistant Director of the Colorado Springs CPS Camp, secretary of education for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) CPS Camps and director of MCC?s mental hospital program.

On Dec. 30, 1945, he married Lois Sommer in her home church at Pekin, Ill. Six weeks later, Robert left to direct MCC?s relief program in Germany, and one year later, Lois joined him as a relief worker. Returning to the U.S. in 1949, Robert entered a doctoral program at the University of Chicago, where he earned a Ph.D. in European history. In 1950, their first child, Ruth Marie, was born and died two days later.

In 1952, Esther was born, and they moved to Bluffton, Ohio, where Robert began teaching history at Bluffton College. During the next 10 years Joan, Karen, David and Ruth joined the family. In 1954, Robert became academic dean and in 1965, president. He took leave for one year, 1961-62, to establish MCC?s Teachers Abroad Program in Africa and Latin America. As president, Robert was particularly interested in innovative programs and in the development of a campus plan that included tree planting and building growth.

After resigning as Bluffton?s president in 1972, Robert directed an MCC Self Study, and Robert and Lois spent four months visiting MCC programs in Africa and Asia. In 1975, Robert joined Bethel College (North Newton, Kansas) as professor of peace studies and director of the Mennonite Library and Archives, then as interim academic dean. Robert retired in 1985, continuing part time for two years as administrative vice president and director of the Kansas Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Robert was involved in the work of the church. He served as deacon and Sunday School teacher in his home congregation and as member of the executive committees of the General Conference Mennonite Church Board of Christian Service, MCC, Mennonite World Conference, Kidron Bethel Village, Kauffman Museum and Mennonite World Review.

Other absorbing activities included curation of the Mirror of the Martyrs exhibit and collaborative historical projects such as publication of the Mennonite Experience in America series.

Together with his brother Gerald, Robert established the Marpeck Fund to foster creative collaboration among Mennonite institutions of higher learning in Canada and the U.S., including Bethel, Bluffton, Goshen, Hesston, Eastern Mennonite, Conrad Grebel, Canadian Mennonite, and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary.

Robert was preceded in death by his parents, brother and infant daughter. Survivors include Lois, his wife of 70 years; his five children, Esther (William) Eash of Newton, Joan of St. Paul, Minn., Karen (Stephen) Kreider Yoder of San Francisco, David (Heidi) of North Newton and Ruth of Munich, Germany; 13 grandchildren; and two great-grandsons.

Robert?s body was donated to Kansas University School of Medicine. Cremation and inurnment will take place at a later date.

A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, at Faith Mennonite Church in Newton. Visitation with family will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 1, at Faith Mennonite Church.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial gifts be designated to Mennonite Central Committee or the Marpeck Fund in care of Faith Mennonite Church, 2100 N. Anderson Ave., Newton, KS 67114.

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