A Wittenberg Moment
Mark Ehlers ’81 Credits University For Life’s Success
“If my children can experience in their college years even half of the joy, the fun, the learning, and the sense of fulfillment that I found during my four years at Wittenberg, I will sleep soundly.”
Every few years, the Wittenberg University Choir passes through town as part of a tour through the northeastern United States. Andrea and I saw them perform Saturday night, March 6, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Ardmore, Pa. I have seen the choir perform several times over the years, and every time I leave feeling blessed, spiritually uplifted and culturally enriched. The collective sounds of these young people’s voices are beautiful, a mosaic of harmony and acoustic perfection. And while they always sound glorious, on Saturday they were really quite spectacular. During the singing of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” (arranged by Gilbert Martin), I turned and noticed Andrea overcome with emotion, struck by the beauty and power of the moment.
I left Wittenberg nearly 30 years ago, though in many ways it never lef t me and continues to occupy a warm place in my heart. Perhaps I so appreciated the Wittenberg Choir on Saturday night because I have often considered my time at Wittenberg as among the best four years of my life. At Wittenberg, life was fun and fulfilling, the days vivid and fresh, friendships came easy, and I never felt alone. On the night of graduation, while others celebrated, I quietly cried, anguished by the thought that life would never be as free and easy again. I loved Wittenberg and knew even then that it was an experience never to be replicated in life’s subsequent stages. Yet, as I sat in the pews of St. Paul’s church, I could not remember once having seen the choir perform during my years at Wittenberg. Sometimes we appreciate only later in life the things we so often overlooked in the past.
In reality, there has been so much more to life since I left college. I headed to Washington, D.C., and later to Philadelphia, places full of history and culture and excitement. I became an accomplished lawyer and prosecutor. I embraced a larger world, which in its splendor sometimes fails to acknowledge the simple and gentle confines of places like Wittenberg.
I have few regrets over the paths I have chosen and choices I have made, and I realize that, in some respects, I may have outgrown Wittenberg – when I graduated in 1981, I was ready to move on – but part of me never left. When I spotted the Wittenberg banner upon entering the church narthex on Saturday night and set my eyes on the bright red and white gowns of the Wittenberg Choir, I felt a rush of pride about where my Wittenberg journey has led me in life and my connection to this grand place. I felt at home.
To this day, when I think of Wittenberg, I feel an occasional twinge of sadness, a longing for the days of my youth, when my whole life stood before me, my dreams unlimited, and my ideals untainted. There is very little I would change about Wittenberg and my experiences there. I know that I am blessed with a family, faith and career, and that is due in no small part to my days at Wittenberg. If my children can experience in their college years even half of the joy, the fun, the learning, and the sense of fulfillment that I found during my four years at Wittenberg, I will sleep soundly knowing they are on the right path, journeying forward to a life complete.
–Mark Ehlers ‘81