Wilber C. Harr
Wall of Witness Award Winner 2013
The late Reverend Dr. Wilber C. Harr ’30 was a man of deep faith and compassion, called to bring Christian teachings to people of African and Asian countries through mission work.
After a term of missionary service in Nigeria, Wilber was appointed professor of Christian missions at Evangelical Theological Seminary (ETS) in 1940. During his career, he traveled extensively throughout Africa and Asia for months at a time, visiting mission units and studying new methods in Christian mission work. In 1957, he was among the first professors at ETS to be granted a sabbatical and spent six months primarily in Africa. During his second opportunity in 1965, he visited Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Ethiopia and India and was then based in Singapore at Trinity Theological College, where he was teaching. He traveled on weekends to Thailand and Indonesia and also visited Japan and the Philippines.
He pursued questions of Church-mission relationships and sought to clarify the work of “North American churchmen” who represented business, government and tourism overseas. Wilber would find doors open to him throughout the countries he toured thanks to the missionaries he had prepared across many Christian denominations.
His knowledge and discernment of missions brought him recognition in denominational and interdenominational circles. In addition to his teaching at ETS, Wilber accepted special teaching assignments at Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Scarritt College in Nashville, TN , Chicago Lutheran Seminary in Maywood, and Bethany Theological Seminary in Oak Brook. Wilber served as president of the National Association of Professors of Missions of North America and the Midwest Association of Professors of Missions.
Among his many roles in the mission field was overseeing orientation for appointees to Africa for missions related to the Division of Foreign Mission of the National Council of Churches of Christ in America.
After earning a degree in history from North Central College, Wilber earned a bachelor of divinity from ETS, a master’s degree from Union Theological Seminary in 1940 and a doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1945. He was residing in Naperville and serving on the ETS faculty at the time of his death in 1971.