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William A. Passavant (October 9, 1821 - January 3, 1894) was a Lutheran minister noted for bringing the Lutheran Deaconess movement to the United States. He is commemorated in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church on November 24 with Justus Falckner and Jehu Jones.



William Alfred Passavant was born in Zelienople, Pennsylvania, the youngest son of Phillipe Louis Passavant and Fredericka Wilhelmina Basse. His mother, known as Zelie Passavant, was the daughter of Baron Dettmar Basse. Baron Basse, a former diplomat, arrived during 1802 from Frankfurt, Germany to become the founder of the city of Zelienople, Pennsylvania.The house that William Passavant was born in is now on the National Register of Historical Places and listed as the Passavant House.[1]

Passavant attended Jefferson College and later Gettysburg Seminary in preparation for a career in the ministry. Although he was initially attracted to the then newer practices of Lutheranism, he was drawn back to a more conservative model later by theologian Charles Porterfield Krauth.[2]

William Passavant began his ministry in Baltimore, Maryland in 1842. He became a publisher of the first Lutheran Almanac and in 1845 The Missionary, which in 1861 was merged into The Lutheran of Philadelphia, where he remained for many years as co-editor. Dr. Passavant was pastor of Christ Lutheran Church of Baden, Pennsylvania from 1858 until 1879, a period of 21 years.

The life of William Passavant was devoted principally to the founding and administration of benevolent institutions. William Passavant is credited with bringing the first deaconesses to the United States. During a trip to Germany he came in contact with Pastor Theodore Fliedner who, as founder of the modern diaconate, had opened a hospital and training school for deaconesses in Kaiserswerth. At Passavant's request, in 1849, Fliedner brought four German deaconesses to Pittsburgh to work in the Pittsburgh Infirmary (now Passavant Hospital).[3]

Thiel College, an independent institution related to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America started in 1866 followed a meeting between the Rev. Dr. William A. Passavant and A. Louis Thiel. At the Pittsburgh Synod convention in Greensburg, Pennsylvania in 1869, it was decided that Thiel Hall would become a college and serve western Pennsylvania. Thiel College began its corporate existence on September 1, 1870.[4]

Passavant would go on to found many other missions, hospitals, orphanages, colleges, and seminaries throughout the country. Many of the institutions he founded would later join together to help found the Lutheran Services in America, the largest church social program in the United States. [5]

Selected List of Institutions Organized

  • The Orphan's Home and Farm School in Zelienople, Pennsylvania (now Glade Run Lutheran Services)
  • The Passavant Epileptic Home in Rochester, Pennsylvania (now Passavant Memorial Homes)
  • Passavant Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (now UPMC Passavant Hospital)
  • Passavant Hospital in Chicago, Illinois (now Passavant Memorial Hospital)
  • Passavant Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois (now Passavant Area Hospital)
  • Passavant Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (now Aurora Sinai Medical Center)
  • Wartburg Orphans’ Farm School in Mount Vernon, New York (now Wartburg Adult Care Community)


  1. ^ The Passavant House (Zelienople Historical Society)
  2. ^ Historical roots run deep in Zelienople (Trudy M. Gray, The Tribune-Review Publishing Co. August 1, 2004)
  3. ^ Baden's First 100 Years (Christ Lutheran Church of Baden, PA.)
  4. ^ The History of Thiel College 1866-1974 (Dr. Roy H. Johnson. Thiel College, Greenville, Pennsylvania)
  5. ^ Lutherans in North America (Holy Trinity Church, New Rochelle, Ny)

Other Sources

  • Jennings, Zelie Some account of Dettmar Basse, the Passavant family and their arrival in America (Zelienople Historical Society. 1988)

External links



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