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Memorial Service Details for Dr. A. Durwood Foster, Faculty Emeritus

A. Durwood FosterDear Pacific School of Religion Community,

We are saddened to share that Dr. A. (Andrew) Durwood Foster, Pacific School of Religion Emeritus Professor, passed away on May 20 in Ashland, Oregon, surrounded by his family. The memorial service for Dr. A. Durwood Foster will be held Saturday, June 24 at 2:00 PM in the Pacific School of Religion chapel. PSR alumna Sharon Burch will preside, and PSR President David Vásquez-Levy will be one of the speakers. A reception will follow in the Badé Museum.

Dr. Foster came to PSR as Associate Professor of Christian Theology in 1959, and was named Professor of Systematic Theology in 1964. He served as Dean from 1974 until 1979. His areas of interest included liberation theology, interfaith dialogue, theology and the natural sciences, and theology and art. Dr. Foster’s courses covered Tillich, Wesley, and Christian-Buddhist dialogue. He retired from PSR in 1992.

Dr. Foster described his vocation as, “bearing witness, through all my limitations, to the wholeness of the Gospel vision in realistic relation to the problems of contemporary life.”

An ordained minister in the United Methodist Church, Dr. Foster was a graduate of Emory University and Union Theological Seminary. He also served as a Fulbright Scholar at Heidelberg, and was a visiting scholar at Gottingen, Columbia, Basel, Berlin, and Oxford. His teaching career sent him around the world, from Durham, North Carolina to Bangalore, India to New York City. Dr. Foster authored The God Who Loves, co-edited Hermeneutics and Unification Theology and Original Sin and Society, and contributed to numerous journals and books.

Kay Schellhase, PSR’s Archivist, fondly remembers Durwood’s expansive and precise vocabulary—“you often had to get a dictionary after having a conversation with him.”

Rev. Dr. Mary Donovan Turner reflects: “My first year of teaching at PSR was Durwood Foster’s last. He was everything you hope a senior colleague will be—gracious, hospitable, and affirming. Because we both had ties to the south and to Emory University in particular, he seemed to take a special interest in my well being, always the consummate mentor and friend.”

Dr. Foster is survived by his children, Catherine (Berkeley, CA) and Robyn (Kansas City, MO). The family hopes to hold a memorial service at PSR in June. We will share details as they are confirmed.

Our prayers are with Dr. Foster’s family, friends, and the many students whose lives he shaped during his three-decade tenure at Pacific School of Religion.

4 Comments

  • Barbara Roche says:

    Durwood and I worked together at PSR for nearly ten years. He became dean of the school and I dean of students. He had a prodigeous memory and an elaborate almost baroque vocabulary. I learned a great deal from him in terms of theology, history, and what it meant to be from Georgia and live in Berkeley. Jimmy Carter called him when he was thinking about running for president and Durwood took me to meet him when he came to Berkeley. Carter told us to watch the Iowa primary. When I left PSR I became editor of a magazine in the Presbyterian Church. Durwood wrote a column for us titled Reel Theology, where he analyzed a film. Many times I called him to ask for his theological input when I was editing. Over the years we kept in touch. I am deeply saddened at his passing.

  • Carlene Ames says:

    I had the immense pleasure of taking Dr. Foster’s course on Theology and the Movies. Of course this was at a time when films were a critical part of human ethical reflection, rather than as today of singularity atheism. Two films of particular ethical joy which we studied were Blue Velvet and Man Facing Southeast (?). Dr. Foster refused to bend to eliminating these choices when many class members believed the films too evil for our study. I am so grateful for Dr. Foster’s life, compassion, beauty and wisdom.

    At that time the PSR faculty had many such professors.

  • Karen McGillivray says:

    I think Dr.Foster is the last of my professors during my years at PSR. He held me to higher standards than I would have believed that I was capable of reaching. I remember well the book review that earned an A+ from him. I gained so much from Dr. Foster in so many ways both in and out of class, and realized that theology was present in every part of my life, not just a seminary subject.I am so sorry for your loss.

  • Andrew Pate says:

    I studied with Dr. Foster, 1961-1964, then through the non-resident years it took me to complete my doctoral dissertation in 1968. The accuracy of other comments on this page, I can fully attest to; but let me add that among the several courses I had under Dr. Foster, of great significance to me were those on Frederick Schleiermacher and Albrecht Ritschl, then most importantly, on Karl Barth. He could interpret, explain, elucidate on these and on many other theological greats with scholarly expertise, and frequent good humor. His book, The God Who Loves, clearly demonstrates his assimilation of Barth’s definition: “God is the One who loves in freedom.”

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