We recently celebrated the centennial of the original Wagner College seal. I became curious about its designer, Edgar Krauch, who created it while he was a student at the College, in 1916. My colleague Lee Manchester located a 1963 profile of Krauch in an obscure local newspaper. Entitled “A Man of Many Talents,” the article includes a photo of Krauch dressed in a suit and tie, pointing to a gravestone lying on the ground in an overgrown cemetery. I was hooked when I read the photo caption that described Krauch as a “poet, rattlesnake hunter, world traveler and grave digger.”
Krauch, it strikes me, was the definition of a liberal arts graduate, with a distinctively Wagnerian flair.
His full name was Edgar Wilhelm Luther Krauch. He was born in 1897 and died in 1979. His father, Rev. Oscar Krauch, was a German immigrant, a Lutheran pastor, and also a Wagner College alumnus, class of 1892. Rev. Krauch served several congregations in and around Albany and Buffalo, New York, and in San Antonio, Texas. Edgar grew up bilingual, English and German, and he used his German throughout his life.
At Wagner College, Krauch not only drew up the first seal, but he also helped create the first yearbook. From that groundbreaking publication (entitled The Wagnerian), we learn a few fun facts about young Edgar: He was on the basketball team, was a “camera fiend,” had the “gift of gab,” and was known by the nickname “Eggs.”
“This term was probably derived from the word ‘legs,’” the yearbook says. “He has them — any length! His favorite mode of exercise is a fantastic ‘snake’ dance of his own invention.” Perhaps that was an omen of his rattlesnake-hunting days to come.
Edgar did not follow his father’s footsteps into the ministry, despite attending seminary after Wagner (which was then a pre-seminary). Instead, he became the owner of the Amherst Memorial Company in Williamsville, New York, provider of gravestones and monuments. Throughout his life, he was devoted to learning, to the church, to history, and to diversity.
In 1933, he wrote a history of St. John’s Church in Buffalo, where his father served as the pastor from 1915 to 1928. Edgar himself served as the secretary of the church council and of the congregation. He was also “the loyal teacher of our growing Women’s Bible Class,” wrote Pastor Martin J. Hoeppner in the introduction. Krauch emphasized women’s rights and inclusion in the history as well.
To Krauch, church history was no dry recitation of facts. “Therein lies Christian faith and trust, philosophy, psychology, biography, romance and adventure,” he wrote in his foreword. “Modern fiction cannot surpass the tales that will be told in these pages.” In other words, he approached this work with the same enthusiasm he devoted to everything else he did, whether it was rattlesnake hunting or antique collecting.
The 1963 feature story, which ran in the Frontier Herald of Blasdell, New York, is no simple resume. Instead, the unnamed author rambles through a thicket of topics, anecdotes, and facts conveyed by his subject. These range from how to knife-hunt woodchucks (and, moreover, how to cook them) to what amazing items Krauch has found while moving cemeteries. The latter included a three-quarter carat diamond ring and the skeleton of a two-headed infant.
Above all, it is Krauch’s interest in all aspects of the world and respect for people past and present that shines through.
“It is seldom that a person meets an exciting personality like Edgar Krauch,” the article says. “One can listen to him for hours with interest and bewilderment. He is an authority on subjects such as antiques, poetry, classics, hunting, fishing, traveling, foods, and above all he is a humorist at heart.”
Krauch’s spirit lives on in the Wagner College of today, a place where exploration of knowledge and service to humanity thrive. I hope all alumni take the time to look at the seal on their diplomas, to reflect on what it means, and to be inspired by the man who created it.
— Laura Barlament, Editor, Wagner Magazine