AIIAS expresses the deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences to the family of its first president, Werner Vyhmeister, who passed away from pneumonia at the age of 88 on March 21, 2020.
Werner Vyhmeister was born in Chile to Seventh-day Adventist parents and was educated as a pastor, historian, and theologian. He served in South America and at Andrews University the roles of a theology professor, archaeologist, and administrator. Dr. Vyhmeister and his wife Nancy were called to work as missionaries in the Philippines from early 1984 and served here until 1990. Vyhmeister first served as the dean of the Far East Theological Seminary, located on the campus of Philippine Union College (now the Adventist University of the Philippines in Silang, Cavite). He later became the first president of the newly established Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS).
During the Vyhmeisters’ time of service in the Philippines, a decision was made in October 1985 to combine the seminary with the graduate school under one administration, serving the Far Eastern Division. This effectively created AIIAS as a new international graduate school operating in the region. With the assistance of local legal counsel and the support of the Far Eastern Division, Vyhmeister successfully sought and obtained Presidential Decree No. 2021, signed in 1986 by President Marcos, establishing the new graduate institution. As the first president of AIIAS, Vyhmeister was one of the pioneers who procured and initiated the development of the campus on which AIIAS now stands.
“Dr. Vyhmeister was a hardworking, efficient, and visionary leader. He was always focused on mission. He could aptly be called the father and founder of AIIAS. I remember participating in discussions—when he shared his vision about creating a theological seminary that should be offering doctoral degree programs, mostly in biblical studies and missions. From there, he started building personnel, faculty, and the physical infrastructure that made his vision a reality,” says Reuel Almocera, a professor in the AIIAS Seminary, as he recalls serving alongside Vyhmeister during the formative years of the institute.
“It was indeed a great privilege and honor to work with a man of God like Dr. Vyhmeister. He was the man who had been instrumental in expanding the work here at AIIAS. He was a good, open-minded, and soft-spoken leader. He was like a father to us employees. He listened to us and inspired us to become good workers. He was a people-oriented person that saw the best in others while caring for them. He always had a smile every time we met him.” – reminisced Ellen Brofas, financial controller at AIIAS, who served as one of the first employees of the institute during its early transition period.
Dr. Vyhmeister left AIIAS in 1990 to serve as dean of the seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Retired since 2000, Vyhmeister stayed active in the ministry while serving the local church and traveling frequently to teach in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. He also continued to actively support Adventist theological education. After serving for many years, Vyhmeister began to experience memory deficits, and in 2018 was moved into memory care in Loma Linda, California as Alzheimer’s disease took its course.
“AIIAS was blessed by the calm and visionary leadership of Dr. Werner Vyhmeister through the turbulent times of establishing it as a separate division-sponsored institution,” says Ginger Ketting-Weller, current president of AIIAS. “From my understanding of his story, his style was to collaborate, communicate, and persist, smiling as he did so. His courage in pursuing the vision of an international seminary and graduate school despite resistance and mischaracterization of his motives is an inspiration and a lesson in leadership. Many students since that time have been blessed by the high-quality education, degrees, and training in leadership that they have received at AIIAS because of Dr. Vyhmeister’s service to the Lord and wise solutions for the needs of his church.”
Dr. Werner Vyhmeister is survived by five siblings, his wife Nancy, and two adult children Heidi and Ronald and their families.
To view Werner Vyhmeister’s memorial website, visit: https://sites.google.com/meu.edu.lb/wkv