Headlines from First Thoughts

Saturday, September 30, 2006

In Memory of Ruth Ann Foster

Ruth Ann Foster, one of the founding faculty of Baylor's Truett Seminary, died Thursday after a long bout with cancer. I was her first student grader at Truett. A few reflections on a professor-friend....

When I first met Ruth Ann Foster, I was sitting in Christian Scriptures 1, trying to decide what the name "Christian Scriptures" meant, and asking myself, "Why didn't they just call this class 'Old Testament'?" On the first day of class, she announced that we would write 7 exegetical papers in one semester. After all, this was Truett Seminary, not that other one. A couple of days later, one of our fellow students evened the score by embarrasing her at El Chico in front of our Dean, Robert Sloan. It was the beginning of a long friendship of laughter and scholarship.

We became friends, not because of anything I did; but I think she and I could relate to one another. We were both non-Texans. Both of us attended fundamentalist schools in the past, and both were just grateful to be in Waco instead of Fort Worth. I married a girl from Ruth Ann's home state of Kentucky. Kelly and Ruth Ann shared a love of Kentucky basketball.

Ruth Ann helped me continue to unbox and bless my past and figure out how to use it in the future. She asked me to be her grader, and she put up with my bad habit of leaving every file drawer open at her desk. I tolerated her "office" (really a cubicle) that she kept a minimum of -32 or as low as the First Baptist Waco air conditioner would let her. I think Nancy de-Claisse Walford, who shared the other side of the office, wrote her dissertation in about 9 months just to keep warm.

More than anything, Ruth Ann was our pastor when I was in seminary. When the other professors took interims and preached on Sundays, Ruth Ann preached and pastored the students. She did not need a pulpit; she used her desk and her classroom to exhort us in our callings. Yes, she could hold her own against every Calvinist, closed minded, anti-women-in-ministry student she taught. But she handled every confrontation the way Bonhoeffer prescribed in Life Together, with honesty, grace, poise, and candor. And she showed each student how to disagree and still remain friends with some of the very people with whom she debated.

She helped us create the Truett Community. When the administration handed down another change, Ruth Ann kept us going. When Conyers couldn't find the right room, Ruth Ann laughed right along with us. When none of us liked the covenant groups, Ruth Ann let down her guard and was transparent enough to be a part of the groups. When students had problems, Ruth Ann hid her own private pain and showed up every time she could, even though she didn't feel like it.

Quietly behind her has been her mother Alice who played the best piano in Kentucky or Texas if you pressed her. She has cared for and loved on Ruth Ann and on every student that has walked into her home and helped them change a light bulb.

Sloan, Creed, Conyers, Foster, Dilday, Houser, deClaisse-Walford, Harbour-- all of them arrived in 1994; and all have a very significant place in my heart and in the formation of Truett Seminary.

The glue that held us together was Ruth Ann Foster. She leaves a legacy that we should all emulate.

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