Professor Gerhard Aho was born on April 22, 1923, in Jersey City, New Jersey, the son of the Reverend Gustaf A. Aho and his wife, Helia. After attending high school in Ashtabula, Ohio, where his father was pastor, he enrolled at Concordia Theological Seminary in 1941 for his junior college education and in 1943 for his theological education. Graduating in 1945, he was ordained into the Lutheran ministry and served Grace Church, Waukegan, Illinois (1945-1946); Betania Church, New York (1946-1953); Lutheran congregations in North Queensland, Australia (1953-1958); and Sion Church, Marquette, Michigan (1958-1960).
He was called to the Seminary in 1960 as assistant professor in connection with the National Evangelical Lutheran Church, a Finnish synod, and was promoted to associate professor in 1966 and professor in 1973. Dr. Aho served as chairman of the Department of Pastoral Theology and as Homiletics Editor for the Concordia Theological Quarterly and the Director of Graduate Studies. His academic preparation included the University of Chicago (1945-1946), Illinois College (Jacksonville) and MacMurray College (1962-1964), Boston University (MA. in Theology, 1964), and the University of Illinois (Ph. D., 1972). His dissertation, The Preaching of F.G. Hedberg, was recognized as one of the most outstanding discourses in the field of rhetoric by the professional speech society.
Dr. Aho had set aside the 1987-1988 academic year for the preparation and writing of a homiletical textbook for seminary students. Coming to the Seminary in 1960 and being one of the three senior faculty members still on active service, he had the distinction of being the oldest Seminary alumnus on the faculty, having enrolled in the pre-seminary program in 1941 at the age of eighteen. Professor Aho came to the Seminary in 1958 to help prepare Finnish-speaking students for the National Evangelical Lutheran Church. Before its incorporation into the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, he began teaching homiletics.
To qualify himself for this task he obtained his baccalaureate, master's, and doctorate degrees while at the Seminary. Recognized as a careful scholar and the Seminary's finest preacher, he attracted students to the Seminary to hear his lectures and learn his methods. Just recently he held concurrently the positions of professor of homiletics, chairman of the Department of Pastoral Theology, homiletics editor of the CTQ, and Director of Graduate Studies.
Often in demand as a district and pastoral conference essayist, especially on the topic of the Law and the Gospel, he authored The Lively Skeleton (1977), Don't Be Afraid (1981), and Glory in the Cross (1985) and was a frequent contributor to the Concordia Pulpit and Portas of Prayer, among other periodicals of the National Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Synod. Though he became seriously ill in August 1985, he continued with all his Seminary assignments and was honored by the 1987 Seminary graduating class as the baccalaureate preacher, the first time the privilege was extended to a Seminary professor. Dr. Aho was admired as a teacher, emulated as a preacher, and loved as a Christian gentleman, committed to the faith of his church. He and his wife Irma are parents to Philip, Bruce, Monica, Amy, Jeffrey, and Pamela. Professor Aho passed away after an illness of over two years on Friday, November 20, in the early morning hours at home. He was buried in Concordia Gardens in Fort Wayne on Tuesday, November 24, after a service at Peace Lutheran Church with his pastor, the Reverend Luther Strasen, officiating and a former student and collaborator in several writing projects, the Reverend Richard Kapfer, preaching. Speaking for the Seminary was Professor Norbert Mueller and representing the Saint Louis Seminary was Professor Francis Rossow, who was also associated with Dr. Aho in sermon projects for Concordia Publishing House. A true Christian gentleman, a dear friend to his colleagues, an example to his students, a prince of a human being, he has earned his rest.