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Memorial celebrates Div School’s Browning

Browning died of cancer in his Hyde Park home on June 3 at the age of 76.

Photo: University of Chicago News Office
Professor and minister Don Browning bridged religion, philosophy, psychology, and the law. He died at 76.

Family, friends, former colleagues and students of the Divinity School’s Don S. Browning (BD '59, AM ‘62, PhD ‘64) gathered on Saturday to honor Browning’s life at a memorial service in Bond Chapel.

Browning died of cancer in his Hyde Park home on June 3 at the age of 76.

An ordained minister and a Divinity School professor of religion and ethics for 37 years, Browning was known for making the academic study of religion more accessible by studying how religion and real life intersect in issues like marriage and psychology. His academic work branched into several fields, including religion, philosophy, psychology, and law.

“He had an amazingly capacious mind that could see how religious and moral questions need to be explored from a variety of vantage points,” said Divinity School Professor William Schweiker, according to a June 8 University News Office obituary. “He could pinpoint the strength and weakness of an argument and indicate this in a forceful, but gentle way.”

Browning was dean of the Disciples Divinity House from 1977 to 1983, and authored three books.

Browning made a lasting impact on those around him both as a Divinity School student—he received all his degrees from the school—and as a professor, according to those who spoke at the service.

“Don was not perfect, but very little was lost in his life,” said Kristine A. Culp (Ph.D.’89), dean of the Disciples Divinity House and associate professor of theology.

The service consisted of a welcome and closing from Margaret M. Mitchell, dean and professor of New Testament and early Christian literature, as well as tributes from Culp and Schweiker. Ethics professor Jean Bethke Elshtain and Elizabeth Marquardt (M.Div. ‘99), vice president for family studies at the Institute for American Values, also spoke.

All five spoke of Browning’s genuine personality and his utter lack of self-pity in his final weeks.

Instead, he seemed to be filled with generativity, Schweiker said, a concern for the future, and a desire to help guide younger generations.

Elshtain said it would take ten people to fill the gap that he left.

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