Oral History: Personal Views about the Curtis Stephan Clan at Valpo

Denunciations, smears and slander against the Stephan family name flowed from colony descendants as well. Some personal examples:
A son of a Theology professor at Valparaiso University (Valpo), a Lutheran related U. in Valpariaso IN, a student in my German class declared that I was “one of those Stephans.” Non-LCMS students in the room looked shocked.
I actually taught a Great Grandson of the C.F.W. Walther. Instructed not to flunk him under any circumstances, I gave him the gift of a D-. Had he done any homework, he could have understood his noble ancestor’s nasty descriptions of Martin Stephan Jr. in German. Fortunately, I hadn’t yet read C.F.W.’s slurs when Walther’s descendent graced my German class. In 1996, at a Stephan reunion, one my best Valpo students announced to me with glee: “My great Grandfather rowed yours over the Mississippi!”
That Bishop Martin Stephan brought misery, dishonor and financial peril to the colonists as a result of his actions was a per se nota es argument used by of the examples mentioned above.
As if personal slurs during my Valpo years were not enough, three more examples of LCMS driven Stephan animosity towards my mother, father and cousin should be noted. My mother attended Valpo from 1930-1932 and also gave at least one vocal recital there. (She had won the State singing contest for high school age girls at age 17).
She and my father lived in nearby Westville where he had received his first call as pastor. Valpo hired Curtis to teach an advance German literature class: Goethe, Lessing and Schiller, authors which he liked very much. While reading an old journal from the 1980’s I was shocked to read my mother told me rumors circulated on campus that she was having an affair with several students. Incensed, my mother confronted said professor and demanded that he recant. Nota bene: my father’s contract for a second year of teaching German was not renewed, much to his sadness and disappointment. She never told him the story.
My cousin attended Valpo in the 70’s and had accepted a proposal for marriage from one of her former professors. Faculty members tried to warn the professor not to marry my cousin, saying she was “one of those Stephans.”
Finally, my father was not spared ridicule in the classroom either. Mother, attending one of his German classes, reported to me that Dad would always come into class perusing his mail. A student had written on the blackboard: “Der Professor ist ein Esel.” (The professor is a jackass.) Without missing a beat, he took a piece of chalk and added the word “treiber” to it. “Der Professor ist ein Eselttreiber,” which means a man who herds jackasses. There were no further incidents. I know other Stephan family members have their own humiliating stories. That these examples even exist demonstrates the mean-spirited, ignorant assumption that if (sic) Stephan did it then his descendants were capable of the same behavior. Such shameful ridicule breaks the Eighth Commandment (Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor) that has plagued our family far too long. I know of no other faculty members who had to put up with this rotten, demeaning, and salacious behavior.

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