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Thomas Coates Papers

 Record Group
Identifier: RG 03/05

Scope and Contents

The Thomas Coates papers are mostly correspondence, but they also contain his office files as well as reports about various aspects of the school, essays, articles, sermons delivered in chapel and elsewhere, and devotions. Notable among the sermons was his farewell sermon to the student body on June 5, 1957, entitled The Cloak, the Books, and the Parchments.

In 1945 a number of theologians attended a meeting in Chicago to discuss what were perceived as negative trends in the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. The group issued A Statement which was signed by 44 theologians, including Thomas Coates. The office files contain three folders of materials on The Statement of the 44.


  • 1946 - 1957

Language of Materials

Materials are entirely in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The files are available for research by appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

The Concordia University Archives is the owner of the materials in the Thomas Coates collection and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Concordia University Archives before any reproduction use. Copyright resides with the creator of the documents or their heirs. The status of copyright is governed by the Copyright Law of the U. S. (Title 17, U.S.C.). In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Biographical note

The Rev. Dr. Thomas Coates was president of Concordia College (University) from 1946 to 1957.

Coates was born in Oakland, CA, on October 1, 1910. After graduation from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, he served parishes in Duluth, MN, and Harvey, IL. He earned a Master of Sacred Theology degree in 1942 and a Doctor of Theology degree from Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary in 1950. He received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN, in 1965. He was assistant executive secretary for the Walther League, a young people's society, for many years. He was among those who organized the Lutheran Human Relations Association of America and served on the board of directors.

The growth in the student body as well as an increase in the number of faculty and administrators during his tenure led to the creation of an administrative council and a reorganization of the faculty into academic departments. He was instrumental in achieving accreditation for the high school, and he laid the groundwork for the eventual accreditation of the college. Also during his tenure an Alumni Association was formed, the Lutheran Education Society was rejuvenated, a junior college was authorized and implemented, and the first women students were enrolled.

Because of his tireless promotion of the College and his fund-raising activities, seven new buildings were erected during his presidency: Centennial Hall, Luther Hall, a service building (heating plant), a president's residence, the Library and Chapel of the Upper room addition to Luther Hall, a gymnasium (now the Fine Arts Building), and Guild Hall. The first building from 1907 was razed to make way for Luther Hall. He made the case and raised funds for Elizabeth Hall, although the building was not completed until after his departure from Concordia. He was especially pleased with the chapel as the campus center for the worship life of the Concordia community.

Coates was a prolific writer. At one time he was managing editor of the Cresset. He wrote articles on theology, and he kept his constituents current on events and needs at Concordia through a variety of publications. He authored eight books, including a collection of sermons delivered in the chapel at Concordia.

He left Concordia in 1957 to become a professor and head of the Department of Religion at the newly constructed Concordia Senior College, Fort Wayne, IN, for nine years. He then spent several years as a visiting professor in theological institutions and a workshop leader in India, the Philippines, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. Coates died in Hong Kong on January 3, 1980, and was buried in Chicago, IL.

In a ceremony on October 24, 2009, the student apartments on NE 29th Avenue and Holman Street were renamed the Coates Apartments in his memory.


2 Linear Feet (4 document boxes)


The papers of Thomas Coates, president at Concordia from 1946-1957, contain correspondence, office records, texts of sermons and reports, along with his files on A Statement of the 44.


The records are organized into four Series: Series I. Office files on various topics, arranged alphabetically; Series II. General correspondence, arranged by year; Series III. Correspondence with the Board for Higher Education, arranged by year; Series IV. Other documents, including mostly undated sermons and devotions, reports, and an obituary.

The office files contain three folders of materials on A Statement of the 44, of which Coates was a signatory before becoming president of Concordia.

Guide to the Thomas Coates Papers An Inventory at the Concordia University (Portland, OR) Archives
Nolan R. Bremer
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note
Finding Aid is written in English.
Encoding of finding aid supported by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission

Repository Details

Part of the Concordia University Archives Repository

Concordia University
2811 NE Holman St.
Portland 97211-6099 USA