Category: Alumni/ae Deaths

Sheldon Baker Stephenson (STH ’45)

January 16th, 2014 in Alumni/ae Deaths

Sheldon Baker Stephenson, 93, of Grace Ridge, Morganton, NC, died Saturday, January 4, 2014 at Grace Ridge Health Care Center. He was born in Hornell, New York, son of the late Sheldon Canfield and Minerva Baker Stephenson.

Raised in Syracuse, NY, Sheldon graduated from Eastwood High School in 1938. He was a 1942 graduate of Syracuse University College of Forestry majoring in Organic Chemistry and Pulp and Paper Manufacturing. During this time he had a life-changing moment in which he committed his life to Jesus Christ. He then went to Boston University School of Theology, graduating with honors in 1945. In May of 1944 he married Charlotte Marion Love, a beautiful, talented, and caring person.

Upon graduation, he was appointed Assistant Minister at First Methodist Church, Syracuse, NY. He then served as the Minister of Minoa/N. Manlius Methodist Church from 1946-52; the First Methodist Church of Penn Yan from 1952-1962; and St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Ithaca, NY from 1962–1974.

From 1974-1978 he served as District Superintendent of the Central New York Conference, supervising 85 churches and their pastors. He then served as pastor of Manlius United Methodist Church from 1978–1985.

During his ministry from 1945–1996 he preached over 2500 sermons, and officiated at the baptism of over 800 children, 700 marriages, and 1000 funerals.

Several highlights of his ministerial career include preaching missions to Mexico, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua; leading a group of ministers to Russia to promote peace during the Cold War; and marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, DC. at the time of his “I have a Dream” speech.

Upon retirement in 1985 he moved with Charlotte to a farm in Trumansburg, NY where he rode his Morgan horse and tended honeybees. During this time he served as a semi-retired pastor of Mecklenburg and Jacksonville United Methodist churches. He and his wife selected Grace Ridge as a final home where they moved in January 1994.

As part of their life in Morganton, they joined the First United Methodist Church, and became active members of the Sunday Aldersgate Class. Always looking for ways to serve the community, Sheldon volunteered at Grace Hospital in the Emergency Room, gave the invocation at the Morganton City Council and the local AARP. He served as Chaplain with the Morganton Dept. of Public Safety, riding up to 3 evenings a week with Police officers until he was 90 years of age. He also volunteered as a reading coach for an elementary school, an Usher at CoMMA, a greeter at Christmas Cheer, and helped out in a Soup Kitchen.

Sheldon is survived by his 3 children and their spouses, Tom and Wendy Stephenson of Brooklyn, NY; Mark and Kristin Stephenson of Napa, CA; and Marcia Stephenson and Tom Broden of West Lafayette, IN; as well as 3 grandchildren: Graham Sheldon, Claire, and Lucas of Napa, CA.

A memorial service will be held at First Methodist Church in Morganton on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Burke United Christian Ministries, 305 W. Union St. Morganton, NC 28655.

Robert Thornburg, Dean of Marsh Chapel

January 16th, 2014 in Alumni/ae Deaths

Robert Thornburg died shortly after Christmas. Bob was the Dean of Marsh Chapel for many years and was a member of the STH faculty. You will see below that his memorial service will be held on February 15 at 1:00 in Marsh Chapel.

1927 – 2013 | Obituary 

THORNBURG, Robert Watts Dean Emeritus of Boston University, passed away at his winter home in Estero, Florida, on December 29th. Robert was born on October 10, 1927, in Chicago. He graduated from DePauw University with graduate study at Garrett Theological Seminary atNorthwestern University and at Union Seminary at Columbia University and received honorary Doctorate Degrees from DePauw University and Illinois Wesleyan University. He joined his father and his twin brother as an ordained United Methodist (UMC) Minister, serving parish churches in Chicago, Northbrook and Peoria, Illinois, before becoming the Associate General Secretary of the UMC Board of Higher Education and Ministry. While in Chicago, the Chicago Chamber of Commerce named him one of their Ten Outstanding Young Men. During the 1960s and 70s he was an active leader in human and civil rights, chairing the Human Rights Commission in Peoria, Illinois. From 1978 until his retirement in 2001, Robert was Dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University, with responsibility for the religious activities at the University, as well as serving on the faculty of the School of Theology. For 23 years he was the voice of Marsh Chapel on Sunday morning on WBUR. During the 1980s he became a nationally recognized expert on destructive religious cults through writings, speeches and work with cult members and their families. His love of sports made him a major fan of the BU Basketball team, traveling with them to virtually every game. The University honored him with his induction into Phi Beta Kappa and the Scarlet Key award. During his 50-year career he received many honors and awards, but he was most proud of the Thornburg 1 jersey given to him by the BU Basketball team. Throughout his life he served as a trustee of numerous other charitable, religious and educational organizations, often in leadership roles. Bob was known for his passion for his work and his love of people always looking at the bright side of life and the good in everyone. As John Silber, the BU President said, The problem with you, Thornburg, is that youre a congenital optimist. His greatest love was for his family, including gatherings in their Boston, Berkshires, and New Hampshire homes along with great reunion trips for the children and grandchildren he often called them his investment in memories. When Bobs mobility became more limited, he enjoyed regular Facebook communication with his grandchildren and a wide circle of friends including many former Boston University students. Along the Boston waterfront he was always recognized in his wheelchair on his daily walks with his dogs. He is survived by his second wife of 35 years, Ann, his twin brother Richard (Peabody, MA) and his sister Mary Cooper (Rochester, NY); his children, Beth Thornburg (Ashland City, TN), Rob Thornburg (Allentown, PA), Judy Zimmerman (Franklin, TN), Anne Mann (Eugene, OR); 8 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren; his first wife Carol Thornburg (Nashville, TN); and his faithful canine companions, Queen and Princess Bean. A private service for the family was held in Florida. A memorial service will be held on February 15th at 1 p.m. at Marsh Chapel at Boston University (735 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston). The family requests that in lieu of flowers memorial contributions can be made to the Animal Rescue League of Boston or a charity of the donors choice . Condolences may be expressed online at

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Orlo Strunk (GRS ’57, STH ’55)

January 16th, 2014 in Alumni/ae Deaths

Orlo Strunk, Jr. Fellow, died on September 24, 2013. Please see the attached obituary in the Journal of Pastoral Care. Orlo received the AAPC Distinguished Contribution Award in 1999. His Family, Friends, and Colleagues will miss him.

Ernest S. Frerichs (STH ’52, GRS ’57)

December 5th, 2013 in Alumni/ae Deaths

Ernest S. Frerichs (STH ’52, GRS ’57) of Warren, RI died on November 11, 2013.

He was a Professor of Religious Studies and of Judaic Studies at Brown University. He served both as Chair of Religious Studies and as Director of Judaic Studies. He also served as Dean of the Graduate School. He served for many years as Executive Director of The Dorot Foundation of Providence, RI. He was a retired member of the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He served as a Sargeant in the 398th Infrantry Regiment of the 100th Infantry Division in the European Theater of World War II.

Fay Gemmell (STH ’50)

March 29th, 2013 in Alumni/ae Deaths

Fay Gemmell passed away on March 22, 2013.  Please see obituary here.

Reverend Donald A. Burge (STH’46)

September 25th, 2012 in Alumni/ae Deaths

Reverend Donald A. Burge passed away on September 7th. Please find his obituary here.