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Schiller University founder is dead at 79

Published March 1, 2007


Dr. Walter W. Leibrecht of Dunedin, an educator, founder and president of Schiller International University and its affiliated schools and enterprises, died from heart failure Saturday (Feb. 24, 2007) at Mease Dunedin Hospital. He was 79.

Dr. Leibrecht saw a need for a learning environment that would prepare students - personally and professionally - for future leadership roles in an international setting.

To meet that goal, he established Schiller College in 1963 at the medieval castle of Ingersheim, near Stuttgart, Germany. The college was named in honor of Friedrich von Schiller, a German poet and philosopher.

During the next 10 years, the school expanded, became accredited and was renamed Schiller International University.

Dr. Leibrecht was born on Sept. 3, 1927, in Karlsruhe, Germany. During World War II, he was drafted into the military at age 16, along with his entire class of male schoolmates. His experiences in the war led him to an interest in theology, which he pursued at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, the University of Heidelberg and the University of Chicago.

He earned his doctorate in 1953 and worked as a research assistant in the theology department of the University of Heidelberg. He was also student adviser, minister of students, and lecturer at Columbia University. He then became assistant professor of philosophy and religion and director of studies at the Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass.

While at Harvard, Dr. Leibrecht also worked with noted theologian Paul Tillich and became his close friend.

Dr. Leibrecht gained more experience as director of Evanston Institute of Ecumenical Studies, Chicago, as professor of ecumenical theology at Garrett Theological Seminary and later as a professor at the University of Chicago.

During this time, Dr. Leibrecht also published and collaborated on several books.

Schools in this country and abroad that are embracing Dr. Leibrecht's international educational concepts have chosen to affiliate themselves with Schiller University, including Genesis Preparatory School in New Port Richey.

"We're really excited about this. It's going to be a good, fun thing," Dr. Leibrecht said in May 2006, of the association that allows older Genesis high school students the opportunity to attend a year at the Schiller International School in Barcelona, Spain.

Dr. Leibrecht's efforts have helped thousands of individuals achieve success through his innovative educational opportunities.

Today, Schiller University serves about 1,100 students from 100 nations each semester, and offers study programs such as international business, resort/club management, and international hotel and tourism management.

Survivors include his wife of 51 years, Lydia (Brandstetter), of Ingersheim, Germany; four sons, Thomas of Heidelberg, Germany, Harald of Ingersheim, and Christoph and Markus, both of Dunedin; a daughter, Bettina Hutflus of Coberg, Germany; a sister, Irmtraud August of Schwann, Germany; and seven grandchildren, Isabelle, Philipp, Charlotte, Caroline, Christoph, Madeleine and Lukas.

Visitation will take place from noon to 8 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Moss-Feaster Funeral Homes & Cremation Services, Dunedin Chapel. A Celebration of Life service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in the west building of Schiller International University, 300 East Bay Drive, Largo. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the American Cancer Society.

[Last modified March 1, 2007, 07:04:29]

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