Service in her honor will be held Wednesday, January 13
Fuller Seminary Dean of Students Ruth Anne Vuong passed away January 4, 2010, in Glendale, California. Ruth had served and cared lovingly for the students of Fuller for more than 25 years, and her unexpected death stunned and saddened the seminary community.
“Since the announcement of Ruth’s so sudden departure, I have received many messages—from folks around the world—telling me of the profound impact she has had on their lives,” said Fuller President Richard J. Mouw. “I have been moved by these testimonies, but they have not surprised me. Like so many others, I feel this loss in a very personal way. I frequently turned to Ruth for wise and spiritually sensitive counsel about difficult issues. Her death has deprived us of a mentor, a friend, and—most of all—a wonderful follower of Jesus Christ.”
“Ruth Vuong was a gift to Fuller,” agreed David Beré, chair of the Board of Trustees. “She was an incredible advocate for students and cared deeply about the broader Fuller community. Her gentle spirit combined with her wonderful gifts touched many over the years. She was loved and respected by the trustees; she encouraged us, prayed for us and, of course, challenged us. She made us better.”
Ruth was born in Lincoln, Illinois, the daughter of a minister in the independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. Her father was also a professor of Biblical Studies at Lincoln Christian College and at Pacific Christian College (now Hope International University in Fullerton, California), where her mother worked as a bookkeeper.
Ruth received her BA and MA degrees in English literature from California State University, Long Beach. She then taught English at Atlanta Christian College and, later, third and fourth grades at Golden West Christian School in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Ruth was devoted to and inspired by the families of that immigrant neighborhood, where she also lived: “My neighbors were diverse—religiously, ethnically, linguistically, economically,” she said. “In all of this diversity, the unassuming courage and dignity with which they lived their lives, their generosity to me and one another, their yearnings and questions in the face of daily risk and loss, as well as their wholehearted celebrations, were a living testament of the vital presence of God in all people. Knowing my neighbors truly formed me spiritually and enhanced my formational work with students.”
In 1984, sparked by her acquaintance with the late Professor Dennis Guernsey, Ruth joined the staff of Fuller Seminary as Program Assistant, and then Program Coordinator, in the Office of Student Services. “I quickly fell in love with this wonderful mix of God’s people,” she said of Fuller’s students. “The breadth of God’s work in the world and the strength of his people was apparent in the Fuller student body. [These were] people with incredible stories and amazing callings.”
Ruth went on to serve as International Student Advisor and Director of Student Services before her appointment as Dean of Students in 2001. In her 25 years at the seminary, she devoted herself to the Fuller community in a number of ways: leading chapel planning, working with students in their spiritual formation, listening and responding to their concerns, mentoring the All Seminary Council, speaking on behalf of students on the President’s Cabinet, encouraging awareness and activity in social justice and gender equality issues, and other areas. She made an important and lasting impact on the student services Fuller provides through her development of the chaplaincy program, Office of Vocational Discernment and Career Services, and International Services Office. Having been a Fuller student herself, she understood the role of the student firsthand and embraced their needs unreservedly.
“Ruth was passionate about students—their welfare and spiritual nurture were her first concern,” said Howard Wilson, former Fuller senior administrator who worked with Ruth for 12 years. “Her deep commitment to social justice, racial harmony, and spiritual formation will long be remembered. And Ruth was fun to hang out with, too! She loved having a good time with students.”
Always displaying love and compassion for her students and colleagues, Ruth never hesitated to speak of God’s love for them as well. “For me,” she said, “all of our vocations—my calling, the callings of our students, faculty, and staff, God’s call for the seminary itself—come down to one thing: love. I remind each student that they are God’s beloved; they always have been, they always will be.”
“Ruth taught us that leadership demands love, and love demands time . . . and that leadership means being attentive to those entrusted to us,” noted student Matthew Talley, who served as Ruth’s assistant since 2008. “She really was a shining example of God’s grace to all around her,” affirmed Justin Fung (MA ’09), an alumnus who also worked with Ruth. “She was a real gift from God: wise, humble, gracious, loving.” Said MDiv student Libby Mucciarone, “Those students who were lucky enough to work alongside her discovered a renewed hope for both individual and corporate redemption amidst the overwhelming questions that arise during seminary.”
Ruth’s pursuits and outreach extended well beyond Fuller Seminary. Her dedication to issues of social justice led her to many involvements in the greater Los Angeles community—mentoring projects, youth empowerment work, community development—where her generous spirit touched many lives young and old. A lifelong learner, Ruth also studied the Korean language. And, adds Senior Professor Bill Pannell—a colleague, teacher, and good friend—Ruth was a gifted writer.
“For me,” said Pannell, “Ruth was a splendid mix of poet and prophet. What impressed me so much about her was her uncommon sensitivity to the relationship between spirituality and matters of justice. She expressed this in her speaking, in her writings, and in her life.”
“Ruth’s influence on the mission of Fuller, as well as on countless individual lives, will only be fully known when the Kingdom is finally revealed in all its glory,” said Dr. Mouw. “As I join so many others in grieving this loss, I also thank the Lord for the gifts that she brought to our life together.”
Ruth is survived by her husband, Thuan; daughter, Sreymol Marie; mother, Anna Ruth Netting, and brother, Park Netting. She was a member of Golden West Christian Church in Los Angeles.
A memorial fund has been established for the Vuong family. Cash or checks (made out to Fuller Seminary) may be sent to Fuller’s Office of the President, 135 North Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, California 91182, with a note indicating that the gift is for the Vuong Memorial.