Remembering the Life of Dr. Arno Q. Weniger, Jr

“It is with awe and a holy sense of duty that I accept the presidency of Maranatha.” With these words, on August 26, 1983, Dr. Arno Q. Weniger, Jr. stepped into the role of president of Maranatha Baptist Bible College. Although to many this would seem a prestigious position and a step up in ministry, Dr. Weniger left a thriving, influential church in Illinois, to lead a small, struggling Bible college. And struggling it was. Debt was mounting, campus repairs piling up, enrollment declining, and faculty uncertainty rising. Dr. Cedarholm had great confidence in “Bud,” as he called him. Years before Doc Cedarholm had written Bud’s name down and placed it in an envelope for the board, suggesting him as the next president.

Despite the mountains to climb, God had the right man for the right time.  “We are all well aware of the faith and vision of our founder, Dr. Cedarholm, and what was accomplished in the miracle days,” says Dr. Marty Marriott, “but we should not overlook the miracle years under Dr. Weniger and how the school was stabilized, strengthened, and developed under his leadership. From what I know of Maranatha history Bud was God’s choice for such a time.”

Dr. Weniger arrived on campus with vision and abundant energy for implementation. Penned on pink Best Western stationary, he had eight pages of goals, among which were establishing an aggressive capital improvement plan, building a student center with ping pong tables, creating a sharp video presentation for promotion, strengthening the graduate programs, providing evaluation and enrichment for the faculty, sending out the Maranatha Messenger ten times a year, utilizing volunteer ministry groups for campus improvements, and personally speaking in chapel no less than twice a week. Scribbled at the top of page seven we read, “You say, how can that be done? We are going to begin!”

And begin he did! The campus was quickly busy with projects. Dr. Weniger was known for driving his golf cart all over campus to talk with faculty, staff, and volunteers while inspecting their work and giving directions. But as Dr. John Brock recounts,

Dr Weniger led by example and would always be present with tools in hand to partner with faculty and staff in volunteer workdays that were common in those early days.  A cherished memory I have of AQW (his nickname among faculty and staff) is from a hot, sultry July day as we were getting ready for the opening of school.  I was showing a visiting family around the campus. The restrooms were being re-tiled and as we walked by the open door there was Dr. Weniger on his knees laying tile.  Dirty and sweaty, he saw us and put down his tools, took off a glove, stuck out a hand and said “Hi, I’m Bud Weniger, president of this college.” That family became part of Maranatha that day—impressed with the example of humility they saw in the leader.

While improving the campus physically and trimming off as much excess as possible financially, Dr. Weniger also turned his attention to promoting excellence academically. He took a firm stand on accreditation. Although once opposing it, after being convinced that accreditation did not violate any Scripture, he began holding private conversations with Dr. Cedarholm, not wanting to move forward without the founder’s support. Without accreditation, the state of Wisconsin would not allow Maranatha to offer certain programs that the board and president deemed necessary to fulfill her mission. Accreditation was the path. Even though it cost Dr. Weniger relationships and he was uninvited from speaking engagements, he never wavered. God used Dr. Weniger’s strong leadership to fight battles and make hard, but needful changes. “As the end of Dr. Weniger’s presidency came to a close, Maranatha was stable, strong and respected. The sixteen years of his leadership bore enduring fruit” (Brock).

While the public persona of Dr. Weniger was courageous, strong, and sometimes even intimidating, Dr. Fred Moritz reflects, “Dr. Weniger exhibited a genuine love for Christ. He also loved the souls of men and worked to bring people to Christ.”

As we remember the life of a man used by God, we rejoice at Dr. Weniger’s investment at Maranatha and are confident that he is now with the Lord. Dr. Weniger challenges us with these words he left behind in an article written on the occasion of his father’s death: “Whether we like it or not, death is sure. The Bible says, ‘…it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgement.’ (Hebrews 9:27) Death is no respecter of persons. It looks us all in the face and it comes to the young as well as the old. My father knew death was sure….He prepared for it – have you?”