John “Jody” Kretzmann ’66, former Chairman of The Daily Princetonian, passed away on Sunday, Jan. 1 at the age of 78. He wrote for the ‘Prince’ in all four of his years at Princeton and was an advocate for social justice both during his time at Princeton and following his graduation as the co-founder of the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute at Northwestern University. The institute is now based at DePaul University that has a lasting international legacy.
Kretzmann was from Valparaiso, Ind., and at Princeton, he studied English and was a member of Colonial Club. Through his time at the ‘Prince,’ he covered baseball, basketball, and varsity football as well as the University administration.
At the ‘Prince,’ Kretzmann became known for editorializing against the Vietnam War, favoring coeducation, and increasingly covering efforts undertaken by student civil rights activists at Princeton in the ’60s, according to Landon Jones ’66, a longtime friend of Kretzmann who wrote and edited for the ‘Prince’ alongside him.
Jones recollected Kretzmann’s boldness in tackling these issues.
“These were controversial acts that required some courage,” he told the ‘Prince.’ “[Jody was] ahead of his time, only ten years but that was a lot then,” Jones said.
Fittingly, it was through social activism that Kretzmann met his wife, Ingrid Christiansen. The two first became acquainted at an anti-Vietnam War rally at Valparaiso University.
“The rest was history. Everything just fell right into place,” Christiansen said. “He was a great listener, and a great partner.”
Christiansen said that both of their families were Lutherans, and that even before meeting Kretzmann, her grandfather and uncle had known Kretzmann’s father, largely in part due to his notable role as President and Chancellor of Valparaiso University at the time.
Christiansen would later become a teacher at Valparaiso University. She told the ‘Prince’ that the first thing she did at the school was schedule a meeting with Kretzmann’s father because he was so well-known.
After graduating from Princeton, Kretzmann received his Master’s in English Literature from the University of Virginia and then earned his Ph.D. in sociology and urban affairs from Northwestern University.
While at Northwestern, Kretzmann led a university alliance called the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, and after completing his doctorate, he went on to co-found and co-direct the ABCD Institute with longtime friend John McKnight at Northwestern’s Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research.
The Institute prioritizes building stronger and sustainable communities by leveraging the skills of local residents and resources provided by existing community associations and institutions, the website explains.
As McKnight reflected on his longtime friend, he stated that Kretzmann will be remembered for his welcoming nature and “his commitment to equity and bringing everyone to the table.”
“We were always partners,” McKnight said.
The ABCD Institute emerged from the research behind a book entitled “Building Communities from the Inside Out” authored by McKnight and Kretzman in 1993. The book focused on documenting neighborhood organizing and the power of people in low-income communities, went on to sell over 120,000 copies across the globe, and allowed Kretzmann to visit new countries and spread ABCD’s message.
Christiansen sees this book as part of Kretzmann’s legacy and his impact on the international community.
“There are people from Japan, Australia, all around the world coming for Jody’s funeral,” she said.
The ABCD Institute eventually transitioned to a non-profit organization and moved from Northwestern University to its current home at DePaul University in Chicago in 2016.
Due to these numerous ventures throughout his career, Kretzmann received many accolades, including the Class of 1966’s first Locomotive Award, an award given to those for their outstanding contributions to society.
When Kretzmann first received the award, Jones stated that “[Jody changed] the way scholars, policy makers, and activists think about neighborhoods and communities.”
Christiansen echoed Jones’s characterization.
“He was so brilliant but also very humane. He did a lot for the public as well as his family. He was a strong force for social change,” she said.
Though Kretzmann graduated from Princeton over 55 years ago, he was forever grateful to his classmates and took great pride in being a Princetonian, largely in part due to the longtime friends he made there.
“He didn’t experience Princeton [as] stressful, he thought it was good. He loved Princeton,” Christiansen said.
As a student at a time when Princeton was all male and composed of nearly all white students, Kretzmann continued to push for inclusivity and a better world for all, even in the face of opposition.
Kretzmann’s advocacy will be missed by all.
“He always had my back. He made life really fun,” Christiansen said.
Kretzmann is survived by his loving wife Ingrid Christiansen and their two children, Katie and Marcus. Jody is also survived by his brothers, Mark and Steve Kretzmann; their wives, Sumiko Maeda and Deb Wisniewski; and his nephew, nieces, and their spouses, Hollin, Teresa, and Lisa Kretzmann, and Claire Wisniewski.
A memorial service celebrating the extraordinary life of Jody Kretzmann will be held at Ebenezer Lutheran Church, 1650 W. Foster Avenue, Chicago, at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, with a reception after the service.
Justus Wilhoit is a News Contributor for the ‘Prince.’ Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.