Baylor, Truett Mourn Death of Founding Seminary Professor

Sept. 28, 2006
News Photo 3807Dr. Ruth Ann Foster

Dr. Ruth Ann Foster, one of the two founding faculty members of Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary, died Thursday, Sept. 28, in Hewitt after battling cancer. She was 59.

Visitation will be from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Oct. 3, at First Baptist Church, Waco. A memorial service will follow at the same location at 1 p.m. with the Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell, pastor of Waco's Calvary Baptist Church, officiating.

A native of Ashland, Ky., Foster joined Truett Seminary in 1994, along with fellow founding professor, the late Dr. A.J. (Chip) Conyers. She came to Baylor from Manor Baptist Church in San Antonio, where she had served as minister of education. Before that, she served as an adjunct instructor in the department of religion at Texas Christian University from 1984-91.

As associate professor of Christian scriptures at Truett, Foster taught New Testament, Old Testament, New Testament Greek and biblical interpretation. She also supervised ministry research for candidates in Truett Seminary's doctor of ministry degree program.

In May 1998, Baylor named Foster an Outstanding Faculty Member in a tenure-track position. In spring 2000, she was awarded the "Professor of Choice" Award by the Truett graduating class of 2000.

"Ruth Ann is the last of the founding faculty of Truett and as such had a special place in all our hearts," said Truett Seminary Dean Paul W. Powell. "She was a perfect blend of toughness and tenderness in dealing with the hard issues we faced in our beginning years. I affectionately called her 'Mother Superior' because of the love and respect I had for her. Truett has lost a scholar, a cheerleader and a dear friend."

"Ruth Ann loved students and was beloved by all. We will sorely miss her wit, grace and passion for teaching," said Dr. David E. Garland, associate dean for academic affairs and The William M. Hinson Chair in Christian Scriptures. "Some of us who were at her bedside toward the end will always be touched remembering our last laugh together even as death was looming and our last prayer together expressing our faith that death will be the last enemy to be defeated."

Two members of Truett's first graduating class in 1997 remembered Foster as woman of great grace, who could hold her own in any debate, and a faculty member who took on the role of pastor to students.

"When the other professors took interims and preached on Sundays, Ruth Ann preached and pastored the students," said William D. Shiell, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Knoxville, Tenn. "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."

Shiell attended Truett Seminary, when classes were held at First Baptist Church, Waco. He said the faculty, staff and fellow students from those early days hold a significant place in his heart and in the seminary's formation.

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

Matthew W. Cook, pastor of Second Baptist Church of Little Rock, was another member of the first class of students at Truett. Cook said he will "forever be grateful to God" for Foster's scholarship, ministry and most of all friendship.

"The first class was a bunch of pioneers, far too sure of ourselves and our own ideas, and I suspect we could have gone in a thousand different directions, but a gentle, loving, and delightfully friendly faculty pulled us together and headed us in the right direction, toward ministry in God's church. Ruth Ann was the very embodiment of that loving, gentle, friendly spirit," Cook said.

"Ruth Ann was also a fierce guardian of the original vision of the seminary - a place of high expectations, of both high intellectual and spiritual standards, but also a place that was intimate and tightly knit," Cook added. "I pray that her passion for the place will live on in others. I know it does in me."

Laura A. Cadena, a 2001 Truett graduate who currently serves as missions partnership relationship manager with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Global Missions, said the passing of Ruth Ann Foster is a great loss for the Truett community.

"Ruth Ann approached life with grace, humor and poise," Cadena said. "As a member of the founding faculty she was instrumental in building the Truett community. Ruth Ann was a minister to alumni and students, and she exemplified the life of a minister by nurturing our callings and investing in our lives."

Foster earned her bachelor's degree in theology from Clear Creek Baptist College in Kentucky in 1978, her master's of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1982, and her doctorate in religion from Southwestern in 1989. In addition to teaching, Foster served as a faculty adviser for the Truett Women in Ministry group. She also was a frequent speaker in Texas and beyond, teaching Bible conferences for churches and the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and leading Women's Retreats throughout the state.

Foster published articles in a number of periodicals, including "Mary the Mother of Jesus" in the Biblical Illustrator, a chapter Introduction and Commentary on 1 John in The Woman's Study New Testament, "Dangerous Waters of Justice and Righteousness: A Study of Biblical Justice" in Christian Ethics Today, and a book review for the Journal of Church and State. She also wrote the Life and Work Sunday School lessons for the Baptist Standard.

In 1996, Foster participated in a three-day seminar and symposium on Global Stewardship at the invitation of Christianity Today. The results of the seminar, which brought together biblical scholars, theologians, sociologists, economists, environmentalists and others was published in the September 1996 issue of Christianity Today.

She served on the editorial board of the Review & Expositor, and was a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion.

Foster is survived by her mother, Alice; a nephew, David Foster of Ashland, Ky. and his wife, Annette; a great niece, Beth Foster; a great nephew, Jeremy Foster; a cousin, Connie Marshall and her husband, Roger, and her life-long best friend, Jane Kerns and her husband, Ken, of Lexington, Ky.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Dr. Ruth Ann Foster George W. Truett Theological Seminary Endowed Scholarship Fund at Baylor University, Box 97026, Waco, Texas 76798-7026.

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