Carl Wilfrid ’65 – Working With People Instead of Test Tubes

Carl Wilfrid ’65 – Working With People Instead of Test Tubes


Carl Wilfrid ’65 grew up on Staten Island with his parents and three younger brothers. He developed a love for chemistry during his high school years at Brooklyn Technical High School. Because of this, he decided that bacteriology would be his college major. He chose to attend Wagner College because it was close to home, it was Lutheran, and it was familiar.

In his first week of his freshman year, his mother suggested, “Why don’t you at least try out for the choir?”  What a key “nudge” that turned out to be! Those four years in the choir were the richest experience of his young life.  He fondly remembers two east coast choir tours, a Midwest tour, and a cross-country tour (by train, not bus) to the west coast. He has vivid memories of all of those experiences, especially from the end of each year’s tour, as the tour bus climbed the hill toward the campus, singing the alma mater with his choir mates.

After his junior year a pastor said, “Carl, have you ever considered becoming a pastor?” At the time he had just completed his favorite and most successful bacteriology course, an independent lab project.  But when he asked himself, “Would you rather work all day with test tubes or people?” the answer was clear.  He decided to go to seminary as an “experiment.” At graduation he received the Bacteriology Award, which that year was in the form of a book thoughtfully purchased: Morison’s The Oxford History of the American People. It remains on his bookshelf to this day.

Carl went on to study at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN and was ordained in 1969. He married Dianne, a North Dakota farmer’s daughter and RN, in 1968.  Along this journey, Carl and Dianne have served parishes in Benedict, ND, Noonan, ND, Phoenix, AZ, Chico, CA, and Reno, NV. He retired in 2014 and remained in Reno. Carl will quickly tell you, “I have enjoyed being a pastor much more than I would have enjoyed being a bacteriologist!”

Like many of his era, Carl certainly appreciates much of the liberal arts education he received at Wagner.  Courses in sociology and psychology were an excellent introduction to those disciplines.  And, although it wasn’t part of his original plan, the Wagner Choir provided adventure - broadening, and deepening experiences that made a significant impact on his life, and continue to generate the deep gratitude he has tried to express through his financial gifts to the college over many years.

For most years since his graduation from Wagner, out of deep gratitude, Carl has made an annual contribution to Wagner, often to The Sigvart J. and Margery M. Steen Scholarship. After he retired, he and his wife became members of the Heritage Society when they established a family trust and included Wagner College in their will. Carl said, “When Dianne and I established our family trust and executed our will there was no question but that Wagner would be included as one beneficiary.  As a parish pastor and registered nurse with two well-educated daughters, we hadn’t amassed much wealth. But I can assure you that in order to include Wagner in your will you needn’t have great wealth - only great gratitude.”