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ALLENTOWN, Pa. – (September 21, 2012) – The 2012 Wallenberg honors will be presented to the Rev. Dr. Walter H. Wagner of Bethlehem, in recognition of his career achievements advancing interreligious understanding through his teaching, his pastoral ministry, and his community leadership.   The honors will be presented at an on-campus dinner hosted by the College’s Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding on Sunday evening, September 24.  The reception preceding the dinner will be co-sponsored by the Lehigh Dialogue Center and Moravian Seminary, two organizations with which Wagner is currently affiliated, leading educational program on Christian-Muslim relations. 

The 2012 Wallenberg Tribute lecture will be presented at 3:30 pm in the College’s Miller Forum by Dr. Karla Suomala of Luther College, Decorah, IA.  Her topic is “Jewish-Christian Engagement in the 21st Century: the New (con)Texts.”  [sic]   Suomala holds the Ph.D. from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati and has been a scholar in residence at Holden Village in Chelan WA and at Tantur Ecumeical Institute in Jerusalem.  The research that informs her lecture was conducted while she held an American Academy of Religion/Henry Luce Foundation Fellowship for the Summer Seminar on Theologies of Religious Pluralism and Comparative Theology in 2009-2010.  She will also be speaking in the adult forum at First Presbyeterian Church, Allentown, on Sunday morning at 9:00 am and will lead a seminar on “Preaching the Pharisees” at Seegers Union, Muhlenberg College, on Monday morning at 10:00 am.  Both events are free and open to the public.

Wagner was an associate professor of religion at Muhlenberg College from 1984-1993 and concurrently held the position of College chaplain during 1984-1989 and coordinator for international students 1989-1993.  While at the College he received the Paul Empie Teaching Award, three consecutive annual awards for distinguished service to minority students, and a special award of faculty, staff, and students for distinguished service.  Prior to coming to Muhlenberg College, he served for four years as director of theological education for the Lutheran Church in America and previously held faculty positions at Upsala College in East Orange, NJ, and at California Lutheran College in Thousand Oaks, CA.  He retired in 2001 after eight years of full-time parish ministry at Christ Lutheran Church, Allentown.  In retirement he has served as an interim pastor for congregations in pastoral transition, including Redeemer Lutheran, Allentown, and Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit, Emmaus.  He also is an adjunct professor on the faculty of Moravian College and Seminary and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

The Wallenberg Tribute was instituted by Muhlenberg College in 1985 in honor of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish national whose creative and heroic work as a diplomat in wartime Budapest, Hungary, in 1944-45 is credited with saving as many as 80,000 Hungarian Jews from deportation by the Nazi to their annihilation camps in Poland.  Wallenberg is one of two honorary citizens of the United States.  He was detained by the Soviets within days of the liberation of Budapest in 1945 and was never seen publicly again; he is believed to have died in 1947 in a Soviet prison.  The Wallenberg honors each year are presented to an individual who embodies Raoul Wallenberg’s value of courageous moral action on behalf of others or who has made a significant contribution to interreligious understanding.

For further information on the Wallenberg Tribute, contact the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding of Muhlenberg College, 484.664.3470,