Alfred F J Kranz was born in South Australia on August 5, 1900, into a pioneering family of German descent. Because he was a good student with parents who valued education, the family moved from their farm into the town of Wirrabara so he could continue his education.
By the age of 16 he was studying by distance education through Adelaide University and getting excellent results. He began work as a student teacher in the government school system.
By 1918, though still very young, he was appointed principal of Iron Knob Primary School, a state government institution. As a consequence of reading his Bible, Kranz became a Christian. A year later, at the age of 19, he accepted the Sabbath after reading some Adventist literature.
Soon those working in the South Australian Conference office heard about this unusual young man who kept the Sabbath “as a day of worship”. Following a visit from the Conference president, church members sponsored Kranz for a year of study at Avondale College.
Kranz initially worked as a colporteur so as to fund a second year as a student at Avondale. But Conference leadership asked him to stay on in South Australia and so, at the age of just 21, he found himself the principal of the Adventist Primary School in Adelaide. While in Adelaide he boarded with the Collins family and on April 12, 1922, married their eldest daughter, Ethel.
After serving as the principal of Ponsonby Adventist School in Auckland (NZ) for two years, Kranz served as preceptor (dean of men) and teacher at Longburn College (1925-27), and then as the Bible teacher (1928–29) there. The Kranz family had two sons during these years—Lyndon and Russell.
Ordained in 1928, Kranz was the Bible teacher at Avondale College from 1930-39. During this time he wrote many of the Bible textbooks for which he became renowned. At Avondale the students began to affectionately refer to Pastor Kranz as “PK”—though never, ever, within his hearing!
" . . . the desire uppermost in my mind was the prayer that maybe one day God would enable me to be a Bible teacher like PK."
From 1940–46, PK was principal of Carmel College near Perth (WA) and during this time he and Ethel adopted their daughter, Val.
By this time the Church in Australasia had recognised the need to upgrade the qualifications of its senior educators and the Kranz family was sent to the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary in Washington DC on study leave. But before PK could enrol in the MA Theology degree program he first had to complete his BA. In order to expedite the process, PK challenged several classes his advisors were requiring him to take. Allowed to take the final examinations for each, PK was asked when he wanted to schedule them and he always consistently said “tomorrow” in each case, to the amazement and surprise of the seminary faculty. He passed each of those examinations easily as he had taught those subjects at Avondale, Carmel and Longburn colleges for about 15 years and had published textbooks for each.
While on study leave in Washington DC, PK completed his BA degree and subsequently took out an MA in Theology as well. Returning to Australia in 1949, PK, with Pastor Nelson Burns, who had also just completed his MA degree in Theology, headed the Bible Department at Avondale College until the end of 1954.
During his many years of teaching at Avondale, PK twice served as acting principal for months at a time, though the role was never made permanent. Possibly this was because he was too valuable as a Bible teacher.
By the mid-1950s the first lecturers with doctorates were in training or joining the faculty, and so in 1955 PK returned to Longburn College, this time as principal, until his so-called retirement in early 1965.
For some years after stepping out of his leadership role, he continued to teach Bible there and served as registrar and librarian, but he gradually reduced his workload until his move to Napier, a town some 200 kilometres or so north of Longburn, in late 1973.
After Ethel died Pastor Kranz married Joy Carter, but this happy union was cut short as Joy was soon to struggle through a difficult journey with terminal cancer. During these years with Joy, PK was also deeply saddened by the death of his son Lyndon from a heart attack in May 1976. He was just 52.
In 1984 PK married Marlene Broad and they had almost nine companionable years together. During his final decade, PK filled many speaking engagements, kept an immaculate garden and thoroughly enjoyed his large personal library. In February 1993 he had a stroke, which hospitalised him. Three weeks later, feeling better than he had for some time, he quietly slipped into his final sleep while resting in a hospital chair.
Alfred S Jorgenson, in reflecting on the enormous influence Pastor Kranz had on all who knew and worked with him and were students in his classes, said it best: “Alfred Kranz reigned supreme in the classroom . . . Dignified, somewhat reserved, but extremely energetic, exuding an enthusiasm that was contagious, his class sessions were dynamic expressions of his own intense study of the Bible and his desire to share with his students the values and blessings he had received from it . . . when I left Avondale, the desire uppermost in my mind was the prayer that maybe one day God would enable me to be a Bible teacher like PK.”
Lester Devine is director emeritus of the Ellen G White/Adventist Research Centre at Avondale College of Higher Education.