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Wilfrid Laurier University Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
June 25, 2016
Canadian Excellence


Rev. David Pfrimmer, Faculty/Alumnus

As the Rev. Dr. David Pfrimmer (BA ’73, MDiv ’77, MA ’80) walked with Pentecostal pastors in Chile during the 1988 demonstrations against then-president Augusto Pinochet, soldiers came upon them and led the apprehensive group into an alley. “It turned out they were Christians trying to protect us,” says Pfrimmer. “It took extreme courage. They were at risk themselves if they were discovered.”

It’s not a role Pfrimmer could have anticipated for himself when he arrived at Waterloo Lutheran University as a student in 1969.

Back then, there were 3,000 students and the school was a Lutheran college. “But what hasn’t changed is the trajectory of the university,” says Pfrimmer, principal dean at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary since 2005 and professor of Christian Ethics. “Laurier maintains an almost congenital commitment to developing students who want to make a difference for other people. The legacy you leave is the people you touch.”

Pfrimmer has a legacy of his own.

He spent 25 years in public policy advocacy work for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, taking an active international role with governments on human rights and social justice issues.

But for Pfrimmer, his biggest reward is being with people during profound moments and enjoying a “privileged seat on the edge of history.”

In 1984, he was in Fort Simpson for Pope John Paul II’s visit, when thick fog prevented Pope John Paul II’s plane from landing for a visit to the First Nations peoples. “It was a privileged moment for me to be with First Nations peoples and experience how they handled this disappointment with such grace and dignity,” he says.

Then in 1990, he met Nelson Mandela. “It was a thrill. Churches had worked for over 25 years to bring an end to apartheid—no one expected to see it end so soon.”

“There’s no way to describe it other than being very fortunate just to be present,” he says of these and other moments.

It’s this perspective that Pfrimmer brings to the seminary and Laurier communities.

“For me there’s been no life like it and no better way to make a contribution to change the world. I want people to leave Laurier and the seminary with a passion to make a difference.”