Bruce Urban: Educator of the Year
In 1976, Concordia Academy called a young teacher, a graduate of Concordia Teacher’s College in Seward, Nebraska, to teach Chemistry and Math. Bruce Urban accepted this call and has since taught at CA for 43 consecutive years! This year marks his last year at CA as Bruce and his wife Cindy, who also teaches at CA, will be retiring.
I first came to know of Bruce when I was a CA freshman in 1981. He was the JV boys basketball coach. I quickly learned that he was a fair but demanding coach who clearly loved the game of basketball and believed that defense was the key to being a great team. It also quickly became clear that Mr. Urban was a popular teacher who was well liked by the student body and his colleagues.
In my last year of high school, Mr. Urban taught me chemistry and continued to be my coach, as he now coached the varsity team. I truly grew to appreciate him as both a great teacher and coach. But it was also during this year that my friends and I began to notice changes in him. We had always known that Mr. Urban was a Christian, but he now seemed to talk about the Lord more than he ever had before. We also noticed that he prayed with a sincerity and passion that we hadn’t noticed before. I also began to hear that students who had questions about God or their faith were beginning to seek out Mr. Urban for advice and prayer.
In 1985, I graduated from CA. If you had asked me then which teachers had impacted my life the most, I would have had Mr. Urban at the top of my list. And yet, unbeknownst to me, his greatest impact on my life was yet to come.
After graduating from college and then seminary, I returned to CA as the campus chaplain. I was now Bruce's colleague, but as I soon discovered, I had more than ever to learn from him.
The change that I had begun to notice during my senior year had continued to the point where Bruce’s love and hunger for the Lord was clearly the core of his being. My old coach was now leading Bible studies and prayer groups for both students and faculty. He organized and often drove students and faculty to hear Christian speakers and attend Christian concerts. He encouraged and assisted students in starting an optional time of student-led prayer and praise during lunch. He organized parents’ prayer meetings and walks in and around the school. He volunteered to lead chapels, sharing deep insights into Scripture that moved and inspired all who were privileged to hear him. Bruce and his wife Cindy would regularly meet with me and the other leaders of the school to encourage us and pray for us and the school. In the same way, Bruce would often be seen talking, laughing, or praying with a student or small group of students as he sought to love and encourage them in the Lord.
You should know that, throughout all this, Bruce continued to be an excellent chemistry and math teacher. And yet, Bruce’s greatest legacy is that the Lord used him (and his wife Cindy) to move the entire culture of CA into a deeper and richer place with the Lord. He changed my life, the lives of his colleagues, and those of thousands of students. I have no doubt that Bruce’s legacy of loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind is now so ingrained into the ethos of CA that it will continue to bless the lives of countless students and faculty long after Bruce has moved on.
At the Minnesota South Education Conference on October 18, Bruce was named Lutheran Educator of the Year. Congratulations, Bruce! One who has been such a blessing, to so many, for so long, is certainly himself worthy of honor.
Rev. Dr. Tim Berner