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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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STEFFENS, Cornelius M.

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Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

STEFFENS, Cornelius M. (Feldhuisen, Germany, Sept. 28, 1866--Chicago, IL, Jan. 15, 1933). The son of Rev. Nicholas M. and Jane (Graham) Steffens, Cornelius came to the United States when he was four years old. His father was assigned to a church at German Valley, Illinois and it was here that the future college leader was educated. By the age of thirteen, the young man had mastered three languages.

At the time his father was a member of the faculty of the Western Theological Seminary which was part of Hope College, Cornelius announced his intention to follow his father into the ministry. He received his college education at Hope College and for a time studied at Moody Institute in Chicago. He then returned to the Western Theological Seminary to complete his theological studies. With that completed, he returned to Chicago to work with two of the most famous evangelists of this time, Charles M. Alexander and Dwight Moody.

Cornelius was involved in home missionary work for a time in South Dakota and then accepted a pastorate at the Second Reformed Church in Rochester, New York. He married during this time and in 1898 accepted a pastorate at Little Falls, New Jersey.

Dr. Steffen's father came to Dubuque in 1895 to accept the chair of professor of theology at the German Presbyterian Theological Seminary of the Northwest (later UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE). Dr. Steffens followed his father in 1902 to become the financial secretary and professor of pastoral theology at the school. When he arrived, he found a faculty of four and a student body of thirteen.

Dr. Steffens was elected president of the institution in 1908. At that time, the value of its properties totaled $40,000. By 1933 the value was risen to $1,500,000 and the school had an endowment fund of $800,000. The faculty had grown from four to 28 over the same period of time and the student body had increased from 13 to 342.

Dr. Steffens became president emeritus in 1924 and served on the board of directors beginning in 1925. In 1933 he published a book Adventures in Money Raising which was autobiographical and told of his work on behalf of the University of Dubuque.

In addition to his work at the college, Dr. Steffens was elected to the state convention of the Republican Party in 1910.



"Dr. Cornelius M. Steffens is Dead," Telegraph Herald, January 16, 1933, p. 1