The Passing of Tom Christenson, Ph.D.

Posted by Nichole Johnson |

Monday, February 11, 2013

News-Tom-Christenson-275Capital University is deeply saddened by the passing of Tom Christenson, Ph.D., professor of religion and philosophy, on Friday, February 8, 2013.

A service to celebrate his life and to honor his memory will be held at 3:30 pm Saturday, February 16, in Mees Hall. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, colleagues and friends are welcome to attend. A reception will follow.

A faithful member of the Cap Family since 1989, Professor Christenson was a respected scholar, committed teacher, stalwart questioner and indefatigable explorer of the intersections of faith, learning, truth and higher education in the Lutheran tradition.

Having taught previously at Augsburg and Concordia colleges, Professor Christenson joined Capital as an associate professor and one year later accepted the role of director of general education, a position he held until 1996. He went on to serve for four years as assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and contributed actively to numerous faculty, search and planning committees throughout his career.

With natural curiosity, keen observation and a fondness for arguing the opposing viewpoint for the sake of debate and meaningful dialogue, Professor Christenson’s scholarly work tended toward exploration of the strengths, flaws, oddities and triumphs of humankind. With unyielding discipline toward clearly articulating the tenants of Lutheran higher education to broaden understanding, Professor Christenson became a trusted authority and ambassador for “an understanding of education shaped by the Lutheran tradition that is … open, free, fearless, respectful of other views and faiths, and thoroughly devoted to the whole truth.”

He wrote two books on the subject — The Gift and Task of Lutheran Higher Education in 2004, and Who Needs a Lutheran College/University? in 2011. He also was founder and longtime editor of Intersections: Faith + Life + Learning, a newsletter of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Division of Higher Education and Schools.

To that end, Professor Christenson was named founding director of Capital University’s Center for Faith and Learning. Established in 2008 in recognition of Capital’s Lutheran heritage and in affirmation of its continued relevance to the Capital community, the center conducts programming that examines the ways Capital’s faith heritage informs our community’s shared values of critical inquiry, vocation, stewardship, and diversity and inclusion. In his role as founding director, Professor Christenson also served as an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees.

Honored by his colleagues for his love of his students, his collegiality and his joie de vivre, Professor Christenson is described this way in the author’s section of one of his books: “He relishes good meals, good stories, and the wonderful peculiarities of his five children.”

Please join us Saturday and bring some good stories of your own as we remember our good friend Tom Christenson. If you have more than one story to share, please post it in the comments section at the bottom of this story so all whose lives were enriched by Tom Christenson can enjoy and relate to it. 

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