Remembering Dr. Rosemary Radford Ruether

Remembering Dr. Rosemary Radford Ruether

Former Carpenter Professor of Feminist Theology at the GTU and PSR passed away on May 21, 2022

BERKELEY, CA – May 23, 2022 –Dr. Rosemary Radford Ruether, former Carpenter Professor of Feminist Theology at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) and Pacific School of Religion (PSR), passed away on May 21, 2022, in Pomona, California. She was 85.  

A Catholic theologian, educator for more than 50 years, activist, and author, Dr. Ruether worked tirelessly in the causes of justice for women, the poor, people of color, the Middle East, and the Earth. Dr. Ruether was outspoken on issues from women’s ordination to the Palestinian state. She wrote more than 600 articles and 36 books, including the systematic feminist theology Sexism and God-Talk (1983) and the ecofeminist primer Gaia and God (1992). 

“Dr. Ruether brought her gifts of knowledge and teaching to the Graduate Theological Union in her retirement, from 2000 to 2005,” said GTU Professor Emerita Dr. Margaret E. Miles, who served as Dean of the GTU from 1996 to 2001. “She was generous in her care for students, teaching a seminar in Spanish and coaching students with theological and historical interests. She also served as faculty sponsor for students with ecological and feminist concerns. She was much appreciated and loved during her time at GTU.” 

“A mensch and a great theologian has fallen this day. A giant among great scholars who walked on Holy Hill has passed away,” said GTU President Uriah Kim. “I was a PhD student when Dr. Ruether came to Holy Hill and I still remember the buzz around her arrival. Everyone was talking about her revolutionary work as a feminist theologian and a scholar-activist, and she quickly became beloved on campus.”  

Born November 2, 1936, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Dr. Ruether was raised in Washington, D.C., and La Jolla, California as the youngest of three daughters of a Catholic mother and an Episcopalian father. Ruether’s father died when she was 12, leaving her to be raised by her mother and her aunt. 

A classicist by training, Dr. Ruether studied philosophy and history at Scripps College, earning her B.A. in 1958. In 1957, Dr. Ruether married Herman J. Ruether. Together, they raised three children. At Claremont Graduate School, she earned both her M.A. in ancient history in 1960 and her Ph.D. in classics and patristics in 1965. Her doctoral dissertation was entitled Gregory Nazianzus Rhetor and Philosopher. She was a Danforth fellow in the 1960–1961 academic year, during her graduate work at Claremont, and she held a Kent fellowship from 1962 to 1965.  

Dr. Ruether was the Georgia Harkness Professor of Applied Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary in Evanston, Illinois (1976–2000), and a faculty member in the joint doctoral program with Northwestern University. She previously taught at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles (1964–1965) and Howard University School of Religion (1965–1975). She was a visiting lecturer at many institutions, including Princeton Theological Seminary, Yale Divinity School, Harvard Divinity School, Boston College, Sir George Williams University, and Heythrop College, University of London. She held honorary degrees from St. Olaf's College, Minnesota; St. Xavier's College, Chicago; Wittenburg College, Ohio; Emmanuel College, Boston; Hamilton College, New York; Walsh College, Ohio; and Dennison College, Ohio. 

From 2000 to 2005, Dr. Ruether served as Carpenter Professor of Feminist Theology at the GTU and PSR. She was a mentor to many GTU students during her tenure. Voices of Feminist Liberation, a festschrift in her honor, was co-edited by two of her GTU PhD students, Emily Leah Silverman and Whitney Bauman, along with Dick von der Horst.  

“Rosemary came to the GTU as a theological legend, but she immediately rolled up her sleeves and threw herself fully into all aspects of her work at the GTU and PSR,” said Arthur Holder, who was Dean of the GTU from 2002 to 2014. “As mentor and advisor to students in feminist theology, ecotheology, and liberation theologies, she had a profound impact during her time here.” 

Dr. Ruether leaves a legacy of progressive theology and scholar-activism. She will be missed by many former colleagues, students, and friends at the GTU and beyond. 

Read the Pacific School of Religion announcement of Dr. Ruether's passing here.

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