Concordia theology professor

Rev. Wesley Harold Wilkie, 81, died at home on Jan. 25, 2020 surrounded by family. Born in Saginaw, Michigan on May 3, 1938 to Harold and Irene (Rutkowsky) Wilkie, he summarized his life and calling with the phrase, “Education in a Christian Context.” A graduate of the original Detroit Lutheran High School in 1955, he studied theology at Valparaiso University and received his Master of Divinity from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. 

Ordained in 1964, he joined the Theology Department of Concordia Teachers College River Forest, now known as Concordia University Chicago. Responding to a request in 1968, he served Concordia College Selma, Alabama as Acting President and Academic Dean. From 1969-1971 he was a full-time student at the University of Chicago pursuing his PhD. He returned to Concordia Teachers College River Forest, 1971-1974, as Dean of Chapel. Thereafter, he taught theology full time. In 1980-81 he was a visiting instructor at Oak Hill Theological College in London, England. In 1990 he was appointed associate professor of Theology at Concordia River Forest. 

As his teaching responsibilities became focused on church history and world religions, he led various student groups to Jordan, Israel, Hong Kong, China and England. He and his wife, Luann, also enjoyed a four-month sabbatical in Southeast Asia. He retired from full-time teaching in 2003. His scholarly interests included exploring Easter Vigils in the Orthodox traditions and membership in the North American Academy of Ecumenists. He regularly attended the National Workshop on Church Unity. 

An avid deer hunter, he enjoyed the outdoors, and shared that passion with his son-in-law and grandson. He completed the first of two marathons while in London in 1981. 

Wesley Wilkie was married to Luann Stein in 1962 and the couple were together until her death in 1994. They were blessed with two daughters, Diana and Lauren. In 1996, Wesley married Dorothy (Fischer) and together they enjoyed fishing and traveling in the United States and throughout the world. Dorothy and Wesley shared their faith as active members of Grace Lutheran Church and regularly attended the Bach Cantata Vespers services. 

Rev. Wesley Wilkie is survived by his wife, Dorothy; his children, Diana (Rick) Buffie, and Lauren (John Elser), Jon Fischer (Cathy Ryan) and Kathy (Jeff) Spies; his grandchildren, Jennifer, Brian (Sara), Karin, Kirsten, Jai and Nina; and his great- grandchildren, Ethan and Kallie. Wesley was proceeded in death by his parents, his wife Luann, his brother Richard, and his granddaughter Erin. 

Visitation will be held at Oak Park’s Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home, 203 S. Marion St. on Friday, Jan. 31 from 3 to 7 p.m. A Celebration of Life will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1 at River Forest’s Grace Lutheran Church, 7300 Division St., followed by committal at Grace Memorial Garden. 

The family prefers memorials to Concordia University Chicago, Valparaiso University and/or to the Bach Cantata Vespers series at Grace Lutheran Church.

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