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Special Collections

Musselman Library
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Gettysburg College Box 420
Gettysburg, PA 17325

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MS-069: The Papers of John W. Vannorsdall

(1 box, .27 cubic feet)

Inclusive Dates: 1953-1978

Bulk Dates: 1968-1972

Processed by Amy Sanderson, ‘07

September 2006

Link to Full Finding Aid - PDF

Provenance Donations by John W. Vannorsdall in May, 1992 and August, 2006.


John W. Vannorsdall served as the Chaplain for Gettysburg College from 1962 until 1976, when he took a position as the chaplain for Yale University.  An Ohio native, he graduated with an A.B. from Harvard University in 1945 and received his B.D. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as completed graduate studies in Social Ethics at Harvard. 

Prior to his term at Gettysburg College, Chaplain Vannorsdall was the Lutheran Campus Pastor at Cornell University, 1957-1962, and his past pastorates include St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and St. John’s Lutheran Church in Elma, New York, 1949-1951, and Trinity Lutheran Church, New Haven, Connecticut, 1951-1957. He also served as a lecturer at the Yale Divinity School in 1956.  Chaplain Vannorsdall served with the Department of Worship, L.C.A. from 1956-1962, and was Chairman of the Local Staff in the Division of College and University Work for the National Lutheran Council from 1960-1962.  He wrote The Place Where We Stand (Muhlenberg Press, 1961) and lesson materials for the Board of Parish Education, as well as articles and reviews for “The Lutheran” and “Frontiers.”

Chaplain Vannorsdall assumed his duties at Gettysburg during a period of change for the college. The Student Christian Association (S.C.A.) had all but fallen by the wayside and compulsory chapel services had been abandoned.  Chaplain Vannorsdall did not institute the traditional religious programming but designed a program that would work for the 1960’s which acknowledged that the “church [was] a minority movement on campus.”  He conducted Sunday morning chapel services and formed the Chapel Council which would merge with the S.C.A. in 1965.  By the last year of his term at Gettysburg College, Chaplain Vannorsdall expanded the Chapel Council to the point where it was overseeing thirty-six programs involving 500 students and welcomed various faith denominations.

Source: Biographical Sketch from John Vannorsdall’s Scrapbook and Charles H. Glatfelter, A Salutary Influence, Gettysburg College, 1832-1985, Vol. II (Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1987), p. 925-7

Series Description

The collections is divided up into six series.  Series I – War Concerns; Series II – Campus Life Reform; Series III – Campus Happenings; Series IV – Miscellaneous Publications; and Series V – Miscellaneous Publications.

Scope and Content  

The Papers of John W. Vannorsdall consist of five series with a majority of the documents included being correspondence and issues proposals from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

Other helpful resources:

  • Record Group 3.4: The Office of the Chaplain; The Papers of the Chapel and the Student Christian Association

Link to Full Finding Aid - PDF