Collyn Franzenburg Schmidt, long-time resident of Lookout Mountain and a founder of Covenant College, died on Saturday, October 15, 2016. She was 92.
Collyn, a native of Iowa where her immigrant father operated several meat markets, began her relationship with the college in 1959 when Covenant was still located in St. Louis, Mo. She then played a variety of roles with Covenant over the next 40 years.
With a degree in nursing from the University of Iowa and a degree in theology from Faith Theological Seminary in Delaware—where she graduated in 1951 as the only woman in a class of 17—Collyn served for seven years as head of nursing at Berakah Tuberculosis Sanitorium, a mission hospital just outside Bethlehem in Jordan.
Collyn Franzenburg returned to the U.S. to earn a master’s degree in nursing education from Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, where she renewed acquaintance with and married a family friend, Rudolph Schmidt. She also joined the administration of the fledgling Covenant College—focusing over the next few years on the coordination of the college’s nursing education program. When the college in 1964 moved from St. Louis to Lookout Mountain, Collyn’s duties included the merger of Covenant’s nursing program with that of Erlanger Hospital.
Collyn also served as Covenant’s dean of women and headed a novel work program through which all Covenant students assisted in the housekeeping and maintenance of the college’s campus and facilities.
With her husband Rudolph, who was Covenant’s admissions director and registrar from 1955 until 1991, Collyn was part of the team that in late 1963 visited the former Lookout Mountain Hotel to evaluate its suitability for adaptation to a college campus. The next summer, the Schmidts were among the earliest staff members to move from St. Louis. They lived that first year in three adjoining rooms of the old hotel, before moving to a home on Lookout Mountain where through the years they extended hospitality to thousands of Covenant students.
The Schmidt team also left its founders’ mark in their support of New City Fellowship, a large multi-cultural church on east Third Street in Chattanooga. In 1968, the Schmidts had been two of a handful of people who started the Third Street Sunday school, which evolved into New City Fellowship. Racial reconciliation, both in the church and in the city, became an increasingly high priority in their personal lives.
Rev. Randy Nabors, long-time founding pastor of New City, said, “Collyn Schmidt was not just a good woman, and not just a faithful woman, although those things were undoubtedly true. She was one of the world's great women. She was great because she was constantly in touch with her own failures, having the mental capacity to appreciate her own insufficiency while completely confident in God's love and acceptance of her right up until the end of her life. She was passionate about great causes - the great cause of the Gospel, the great cause of the Kingdom of God, the great cause of the essential place of the local church, the great causes of justice, mercy, and racial reconciliation, the great cause of seeing all of life being taught to children as belonging to and for the glory of God.”
Derek Halvorson, current president of Covenant College, said, “Aunt Collyn was a remarkable person who had a profound impact on the lives of generations of Covenant students...She was gracious, earnest, loving, witty, humble, and deeply committed to Jesus Christ and his truth—and spunky in the best possible way.”
Collyn Schmidt is survived by well over 150 nieces and nephews extending to the fourth generation around the world.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Rudy Schmidt, and seven siblings.
Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at Wann Funeral Home in St. Elmo. A memorial service is set for 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19, at New City Fellowship, with burial to follow in Forest Hills Cemetery.
Collyn requested that in lieu of flowers, gifts be made to New City Fellowship, Covenant College, and Covenant Seminary.