The Niebuhr Medal was established in honor of Elmhurst alumni Reinhold and H. Richard Niebuhr. These remarkable brothers, central figures in the history of Elmhurst College, are counted among the pre-eminent American theologians of the 20th century.
“Reinhold, Class of 1910, cut his teeth as a polemical writer while a student and young alumnus,” said President Emeritus Bryant L. Cureton. “Later he raised funds for the first library building on campus.
“Richard, Class of 1912, returned to Elmhurst after receiving his Ph.D. from Yale to serve as president before continuing his scholarly career. His tenure, from 1924 to 1927, was a turning point for the institution, when the dream was planted of what Elmhurst has become.”
After resigning from Elmhurst in 1927, Richard Niebuhr went back to teaching theology, making significant contributions to his profession over the next 35 years. Reinhold, who lived until 1971, attained national prominence as well. In the words of historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Reinhold Niebuhr was “the most influential American theologian of the 20th century.”