Graduate Theological Union
It takes remarkable people to build a remarkable institution.
Many, many people have been instrumental to the success of the GTU over the last 50 years. We've created this space to honor the contributions of the GTU's most seminal figures.
In addition, each school has chosen one person who embodies the spirit of the GTU to be recognized for a lifetime of contributions in service of the GTU.
We welcome additional nominations for the GTU Hall of Fame.
John Dillenberger (Dean ‘63-‘69, President ‘67-‘71)
John Dillenberger was integral to the GTU’s creation. Born in 1918, he was a Dean of the Faculty at San Francisco Theological Seminary. He served as the GTU’s dean from 1964 to 1969 and as its first president from 1967 to 1972. He would later serve again as Acting President from 1999-2000. He also served the GTU as Acting Library Director. At the GTU, he was a professor of historical theology, particularly interested in the history of science. Much of his academic writings focused on the relationship between religion and science. He has published Protestant Thought and Natural Science and Creation and the History of Science.
He was formerly President of Hartford Theological Seminary and Chair of the Program in History and Philosophy at Harvard University. He also served as President of the American Academy of Religion. Dillenberger died in 2008 and is remembered for high energetic commitment and service to the GTU from its inception.
J. Stillson Judah (Library Director ‘66-‘77)
J. Stillson Judah was born in 1911 in Leavenworth, WA. He studied in Philosophy and Oriental Studies at the University of Washington, finishing in 1934. In 1940, and again in 1966, he completed graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley. After graduating with a Library Certificate in 1941, he would go on to serve as librarian at the Pacific School of Religion from 1941-1969.
He edited and compiled the Index of Religious Periodical Literature from 1949 to 1952. He began annotating individual schools library holdings (as PSR librarian) and cooperating with JST (not yet joined the union) even before the Bibliographic Center and signing of the Common Library agreement. He oversaw the formation of a common collection and the visioning of the library building. Eventually he took on responsibilities as the GTU Library’s first librarian. He was instrumental in starting and building the GTU's collection of new religious movements.
Judah was a Professor, specializing in the History of Religions. He was actively involved in religious freedom movements from the 1960’s to 1970’s. He retired in 1976. He also served as the Vice Chairman of the Alliance for the Preservation of Religious Liberty. He passed away in October 2000.
Born in Brookline, Mass., Dinner majored in business administration at Boston University. In 1942, he married Betty Swig, the daughter of Fairmont Hotel magnate Benjamin Swig.Dinner served in the Army from 1944 to 1946. He earned a bronze star for his service behind Japanese lines in Burma. After the war, the young couple moved to California and stayed together until her death in 1980. He married Joan Withers in 1982.
He was a partner in the Dinner Levison Co., a commercial insurance brokerage, until he retired in 1983. But friends said his real passion was outside of work. The GTU drew his attention in the late 1960s. He served on the board for over 30 years, including as vice chair. He later was named a trustee for life.
His daughters attributed his interest in ecumenical relations to his father-in-law, who became highly involved with the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco. But they also said his own upbringing in the Boston area influenced him. His move to California, "where there was a more relaxed interaction between people of different cultures and religious faiths," inspired him to work for harmonious relations on more than just a personal level, Zecca Ferris said.
Flora Lamson Hewlett and the Hewlett Family
The Library serves as the academic core and the physical center of the shared effort that comprises the GTU. The building remains an architectural gem, serving all students of the consortium and members of wider community. This critical building would not have been possible without the lead gift from the Hewlett Family Foundation in honor of Flora Lamson Hewlett.
Flora Lamson Hewlett was born in 1914. She graduated from UC Berkeley in 1935 with a degree in biochemistry. In 1939, she married William Hewlett, one of the founders of Hewlett-Packard. They had had five children together and twelve grandchildren.
She was a major philanthropist, especially in areas of education and the environment. She was especially devoted to higher education, serving on the governing bodies of Stanford, San Francisco Theological Seminary, and the Graduate Theological Union. The GTU’s library, one of its greatest achievements, is named in her honour.
She also served on the Executive Committee of the World Affairs Council of Northern California and as a director of California Tomorrow, which worked to preserve the natural beauty of California. Flora Lamson Hewlett was also particularly attached to, and worked hard to preserve, the Sierra Nevada wilderness. She also served her own home Presbyterian parish as an Elder.
She died in 1977, though her memory and legacy live on through countless continued philanthropic endeavours made in her name both from her own foundation and the endeavours of her family.
Judith Berling (Dean ‘87-’96, faculty ’87-present)
Judith Berling was the GTU's first female administrator. She is highly recognized as a scholar and teacher, intentionally cultivating interdisciplinary and interreligious encounters in her classroom and encouraging those throughout the GTU - her legacy. Berling convened a working group of faculty to enrich the curriculum with Asian and Pacific Rim topics and perspectives - an emphasis that continues through the Asia Project. In 2003, she was award the first Sarlo Excellence in Teaching Award for her interdisciplinary and interreligious approach. Three years earlier she delivered the Distinguished Faculty Lecture.
Reflecting on her time as Dean, Berling commented, "In 1987 the GTU was tiny and there were many who had been here since its founding. Consequently, there were many memories about what the GTU was intended to be, and often they were competing memories. There were no written policies when I came! There was only oral tradition and, in many cases, contended oral tradition. I could listen to all the stories and see how they somehow knit together."
Judith Berling graduated from Carleton College in 1967, majoring in religion. Studying at Columbia University, she earned an MPhil in 1974 and her PhD in 1976. She received several fellowships and grants over the years, including a Henry Luce III Fellowship for Theology in 1991–92 and again in 2001–02. In 1990, she served as President of the American Academy of Religion. In 2000, the GTU has also recognized her achievements by awarding her with the Distinguished Faculty Lecturer.
Berling has also served as president of the American Society for the Study of Religions, as a past trustee and vice chair of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia, and as a member of the Association of Theological Schools Commission on Accreditation.
Margaret Miles (Ph.D. ’77, Dean ‘96-’01, faculty ’96-‘01)
Margaret Miles received her BA and her MA from San Francisco State University. Studying St. Augustine’s understanding of the body at the GTU, she earned her PhD in 1977.
She taught at Harvard Divinity School for 18 years. There, she served as chair of the theology department and on the Committee on Religion, Gender and Culture. In 1996 she returned to the GTU. She was a professor of Historical Theology at the American Baptist Seminary of the West. She served as dean there until 2001.
Miles has also served on the editorial board of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion and the advisory board for Feminist Studies in Religion. She has also served as President of the American Academy of Religion.
Miles was awarded the GTU’s Alumni of the Year Award in 1991. She has also received a Guggenheim Fellowship (1982), a fellowship at the Rockefeller Study and Conference Center, Bellagio; Italy (1983), and a Henry Luce III Fellow in Theology grant (1994-95).
Her publications include Augustine and the Fundamentalist's Daughter (Lutterworth Press, 2012); Augustine on the Body (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2009); The Word Made Flesh: A History of Christian Thought (Wiley-Blackwell , 2004); A Complex Delight: The Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750 (University of California Press, 2008); Seeing and Believing: Religion and Values in the Movies (Beacon, 1996); Desire and Delight: A New Reading of Augustine's "Confessions" (Crossroad, 1992); Carnal Knowing: Female Nakedness and Religious Meaning in the Christian and Postchristian West (Beacon, 1989); Practicing Christianity: Critical Perspectives for an Embodied Spirituality(Crossroad, 1988); and Image as Insight: Visual Understanding in Western Christianity and Secular Culture (Beacon, 1985).
John Weiser (Board Chair '99 - 07)
Among his many efforts to ensure the GTU’s academic, programmatic, administrative, and financial success, he endowed a Presidential Scholarship, and helped launch the capital campaign with a major gift; helped draft the Common Agreement between member schools and the GTU; and spearheaded the committee to find GTU President James A. Donahue. He embodied the GTU’s interfaith mission by creating an interfaith lecture series honoring his father at Temple Emmanuel and by supporting the creation of the Center for Islamic Studies. He played a major role in bringing about needed repairs at the Flora Lamson Hewlett Library. In 2010, John Weiser was awarded the President’s Medallion in recognition of his tremendous and multi –faceted service to the GTU.
John is retired after serving for 18 years as director and general counsel for Bechtel Group, Inc. He says, “My family fled Europe in 1938, our lives upended by religious persecution. Many people acting on their religious beliefs extended a hand. From these early experiences came my deep belief that religion matters, and that it can motivate people to help their neighbors and our world.” Weiser is the current chair of the United Religions Initiative, a global community dedicated to promoting daily interfaith cooperation. He also serves on the board for the National Catholic Reporter. John and his wife Maria have eight children and eleven grandchildren.
Sharon-Gay Smith, Consortial Registrar (1971-2008)
Sharon-Gay Smith was born in February 1942. She spent her youth travelling around the world with her family, courtesy of the US Army and Air Force. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in anthropology and political science, but also attended CDSP for two quarters.
She served the GTU for 37 years until she retired in 2008. She began in the Registrar's Office in 1971 staffing the PBX system and typing transcripts by hand. After serving as assistant to Betty Over for 18 years, she became Consortial Registrar upon Over's retirement in 1989. It’s not easy to recognise the work that she did in writing, but everyone loved her and relied on her. She was integral to the background work of the GTU. She saw the GTU Consortial Registration through its transition from all paper to computers (on multiple registration systems). While this is hardly romantic sounding, the GTU could not have operated the way it does now without her and her expertise facilitating the way. Many who remember Sharon-Gay describe her as embodying the “spirit of the GTU.”
Sharon-Gay worked with 5 of GTU's 6 deans and all 6 presidents.
Upon learning of GTU's intentions for recognizing individuals for their contribution as part of our 50th Anniversary, all of the registrars for the member school unanimously nominated Sharon-Gay for her 37 years of service to the GTU and the community within it.
She died in August 2009 and will be remembered and loved by the staff, students and faculty of the GTU Consortium.
Lucinda Glenn is a good Methodist, a good crocket player, a wonderful singer, and a great archivist.
Lucinda served as the GTU archivist for over 23 years, retiring in August 2012. Single-handedly she managed the operation of the manuscript and institutional archives, establishing the collection as one of the best in the country in the areas of religion and social justice, new religious movements, and religious activities in 20th century California. Outside of the GTU, she held leadership positions in the Society of American Archivists and the Society of California Archivists, of which she was president in 2008-9. She is recognized as an authority on processing religious collections and managing the privacy and confidentiality issues related to pastoral work.
Lucinda grew up in a military family in Orange County. She moved to northern California for her higher education. She received a BA in Medieval English History from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1972; a MA from Pacific School of Religion (her thesis: “John Wesley’s Development of a Doctrine of the Church”) in 1980; and a MA in Librarianship with a specialization in archives from the University of Denver in 1981.
After graduation, she served as a missionary to rural parishes in Tennessee and Mississippi for the United Methodist Church. Returning to the West Coast, she worked in a Methodist’s women’s center in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Following a brief stint working in the GTU library, Lucinda was hired in 1982 for three positions: secretary to Dean Claude Welch, secretary for the Center for Jewish Studies, and coordinator of the GTU Placement Office. In 1989, she became the archivist, gathering materials from closets, basements and other dusty corners of the GTU, and began the archives program.