As Chancellor of the University of Tubingen, Andreas Rothfuss leads one of the top research universities in Germany. Becoming Chancellor is not the career that he planned when he came to Portland State University (PSU) in 1992 to work on a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.
Andreas came to Portland to prepare for a career in business. And he was also looking for a community of Christian believers. Andreas had been a leader in a group at the University of Mannheim that was a part of SMD, the German affiliate of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES).
Soon after his arrival in Portland, he connected with InterVarsity Campus Staff Members Fred Wagner and Ron Riesinger, who were involved with FOCUS (Friends of Overseas Citizens and University Students), part of InterVarsity’s PSU outreach to international students.
“When you go to other countries you get to know a different culture and you ask a lot of questions,” Andreas said. “It’s very helpful to get in touch with Christians. FOCUS is a wonderful program; they have a great love for international students.”
Ron met weekly with Andreas and his wife Jutte for prayer and Bible study. Every Friday afternoon international students gathered at Koinonia House on the PSU campus. “Andreas would bring his guitar to accompany the group of eight to ten from Japan, Ukraine, and other countries,” Ron remembered.
Another meeting was held in the evening for internationals. “Being a grad student, Andreas carefully allocated his time, so he did not come to the International Coffee House,” Ron added. “But Jutta came, bringing freshly made German treats.”FOCUS also introduced Andreas and Jutte to a local family, the Kirkwoods, who hosted them in their home and shared recreational activities so that they could experience more of American culture. They still stay in touch.
Reflecting back on the faith lessons learned during his time at PSU, Andreas said, “I got more love for international students, especially for Asian people.” He hadn’t known any Asians before coming to Portland. “When we went back to Mannheim we started a host family program to help international students get in touch with families, especially Christian families.”
As Andreas continued his studies, he shifted from business administration to education. His PhD work at the University of Cologne focused on the differences between the American and German education systems. “There are a lot of things we can learn from the United States,” he said. “American universities are much more market oriented.”
After graduation Andreas took a job with a government ministry which serves students. Six years later he was chosen to be chancellor of the University of Tubingen, one of Germany’s oldest and largest universities.
“I am glad to have a job where I can make an impact on education,” Andreas said. “I have a high responsibility and am in touch with a lot of different people.” The international students at Tubingen have a special place in his heart, although he’s not in contact with them nearly as much as he would like.
Ron and his wife visited Andreas and Jutte and their family in 2008. “God has put him in a unique position of influence,” Ron said. “He is boldly serving Christ, being salt and light in the academy.”