Off the Cuff: Fred Lassen

Manfred Lassen is the College Protestant Chaplain. He describes himself as an “inveterate easterner” from Amityville, Long Island. He received his degree from Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis.
His Wilder office sports a number of framed landscape photographs he has taken himself. He is a self-proclaimed short story junkie and avid fan of the arts.
He graciously used his Wednesday afternoon to answer the Review’s random questions.

How did you become a professional religious person?

My own pastor was a mentor. He asked me at the age of 15 if I had ever given any thought to a life of ministering. The fact that he had thought about it made me think about it. It was not a revelation or a calling from on high. It was a very human experience, but that is how I believe God issues the call.

What made you come to Oberlin?

My two sons both graduated from Oberlin: one in ’90 from the Con and the other in ’93 from the College. I came to visit them and said to myself, this would be a great place to do ministry.

So you were here at the same time as your sons?

Yes, much to their chagrin. Frederick, who’s my oldest son, is now Associate Conductor for 42nd Street on Broadway. And Jonathan, who since ’93 has been in China, has just enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Clark University in Worcester, MA.

What are they up to now?

Neither one is going into ministry. [Laughs] I don’t know what that says about me.

Obies are said to be very non-religious. Have you found that to be true?

Yes and no. I feel that is perhaps overstated. The popular take is that students here do not take to organized religion.
Some students may be more prone to say they are spiritual as opposed to religious. I get calls from worried parents all the time asking if their son or daughter will be able to find a religious community here. The answer is yes. Religion is very alive at Oberlin.
It is a powerful environment in which to work. You’re tested. There is a resistance to authoritarian religions here, certainly. But I have never felt rejected.

How do students here differ from the students you have ministered to elsewhere?

They weren’t as feisty.
How do you feel about the possibility of war with Iraq?

I am very much opposed to it. I am very anxious about the relentless pressure being put on the U.S. Congress and on the United Nations. I feel it is very destructive to our institutions. I hope that we will resist an imperial presidency.

What sort of music do you like?

I just got Gordon Lightfoot’s “Saliute.” [Laughs] My tastes are very Catholic. I’ve been looking for it for years. Now that I have it, I’m a happy camper.

What is the most recent book you have read?

Meditations from a Movable Chair by Andre Dubus.

Interview conducted by News Editor Rachel Decker. Off the cuff ideas? Email

September 27
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