Reflections Offered on a Legacy of Scholarship, Generosity, and Unwavering Faith
"This is a service of both grieving and celebration," said President Richard J. Mouw in opening Fuller Seminary’s service of remembrance of the life of David M. Scholer, professor of New Testament, who died on August 22, 2008. Students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, friends, and members of Dr. Scholer’s family filled the sanctuary of First Congregational Church of Pasadena for the service, held Thursday, October 16.
"David wanted to put tools in the hands of others to equip them to access and understand the New Testament," said Marianne Meye Thompson, Fuller’s George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament Interpretation, in a reflection offered at the service. Describing the attentively thorough way he engaged his topics of study, Thompson told of many email exchanges they shared that were often peppered with humor. "I will miss those emails," she said, which reflected "the wide-ranging knowledge he so enthusiastically shared with others." But Scholer’s greatest legacy, she noted, is seen in the many people, including many women, he influenced: "those he empowered by his teaching and encouragement to venture into fields they would otherwise not have sought out." May we all recall his legacy, she exhorted, and seek "to equip and empower others to be servants of the gospel of Christ."
"When I think of David Scholer, I think of the word ‘largesse,’" declared Professor of Theology and Culture Robert K. Johnston in his reflection. "It is a word that means generous giving—large giving. As those of us who were privileged to know him would agree, David was full of largesse." Johnston, who worked with Scholer at North Park Seminary in Chicago and sought Scholer out as his mentor, went on to emphatically state that "He was simply the greatest New Testament expert on the subject of women in ministry." And not just women, said Johnston, but he always "could be counted on to side with the underdog—anyone disadvantaged by the power differential." Though his death represents a significant loss to Fuller Seminary, "we are all the better for having been recipients of his generous spirit," said Johnston: "his largesse."
Following congregational singing of the hymn "How Firm a Foundation," Michelle Baker-Wright, current PhD student in Worship and Culture, spoke about the appropriateness of this hymn to the memory of Scholer, who built his life on the firm foundation of his faith. "In the midst of great suffering, I saw David ground himself in the love of Jesus," she said. "He was confident that nothing could separate him from it." Baker-Wright—also mentored by Scholer, as well as married by him to her husband five years ago—spoke of lessons she learned from Scholer, including one particularly impactful statement: "We need to realize that the past we build today," he told her, "shapes our future." Said Baker-Wright, "Not only did David teach me how to live well, he also taught me how to die well."
Jeannette Scholer, David Scholer’s wife of 48 years and longtime director of academic programs in the School of Theology, offered the final reflection. "There is a tandem legacy that has come to us through David Scholer and Jeannette Scholer," said Dean Howard Loewen in introducing Jeannette. "I saw in them both an individual and a joint commitment to theological education as a vocation and a calling—and a commitment to communicate that to students."
In her 50 years of sharing life with David Scholer, said Jeannette, "there is so much to be grateful for," and touched on a partial list: "for a partnership that was, from the very start, intensely egalitarian…for the way David shared his learning with me over the years…for the way he welcomed me to participate in his life at each of the four seminaries where he served…for the wide-ranging interests he had…for the way he savored each day…for the ways he connected with people"—with humor, she said, and an "unpretentious spirituality." And he would join her, she said, in expressing great gratitude for their two daughters, Emily and Abigail. "What pride and delight he took in his daughters!"
"David loved his years at Fuller," said Jeannette in conclusion. Passionate about the New Testament, he appreciated everyone who worked with him in its study. "He believed in the transformative power of teaching and learning. It was life-giving for him to teach. He loved his students; he simply loved to teach."