Grebel mourns the death of Dr. Rodney J. Sawatsky, 1943-2004

Monday, November 29, 2004

Rod SawatskyIt is with deep sadness that Conrad Grebel University College mourns the death of Dr. Rodney James Sawatsky, on November 27, 2004. Rod died at home in Waterloo at the age of 60, in loving care after a courageous struggle with brain cancer. Beloved and devoted husband of Lorna (Ewert) for 40 years. Cherished father of Tanya of Waterloo, Lisa and Katherine, both of Toronto.

Rod was born on December 5, 1943 in Altona, Manitoba. He graduated from Canadian Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg and Bethel College in Kansas before earning graduate degrees at the University of Minnesota (MA in History) and Princeton University (MA and PhD in Religion).

Rod's career and life-long passion was education within the Christian college environment. He taught briefly in Didsbury, Alberta and at Canadian Mennonite Bible College before coming to Conrad Grebel University College in 1974, teaching in the area of History, Religious Studies, Mennonite Studies, and Peace and Conflict Studies. He served the college as academic dean from 1974-89 and as president from 1989-94. During those years, Rod was instrumental in the development of the college’s graduate program and the establishment of the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre. The Sawatskys were key figures in the Grebel community, as Rod and Lorna hosted many college functions. They were wonderful ambassadors as they represented the college to the broader church, ecumenical, artistic and scholarly communities.

Rod Sawatsky's vision and passion for liberal arts education were instrumental in shaping the academic program at Conrad Grebel, [says President Henry Paetkau.] He helped to forge the close relationship the college has with the University of Waterloo. Rod's vision extended beyond undergraduate education to graduate theological education which would serve the leadership needs of the church. He left an indelible imprint on the college.

Rod Sawatsky speaks at Conrad GrebelIn 1994, Rod was appointed president of Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania. There he articulated a new mission and identity statement and a strategic plan that emphasized excellence, diversity, fostering international study and a spirit of service and engagement in society. His visionary leadership resulted in an increase in enrolment and an unprecedented expansion of campus facilities and programs.

In June of this year Rod and Lorna returned to Waterloo to be near family and friends. In the last months of his life, Rod completed a book Gracious Christianity together with a colleague and enjoyed many stimulating conversations with friends and former colleagues. Not only was Rod passionate about education, he was passionate about life, his family and his friends. He loved travel, music, the arts and engaging conversations. He will be remembered for his inspiring leadership, love of learning, fun-loving spirit, abiding principles and especially his indomitable hoe.

Friends will be received at the Edward R. Good Funeral Home, 171 King Street South, Waterloo Monday, November 29 from 2-4 pm and 7-9 pm, and Tuesday November 30 from 2-4 pm and 7-9 pm. A celebration of Rod's life will be held on Wednesday, December 1, 2004 at 11am at First United Church, 16 William Street, Waterloo, with a reception immediately following the service. Interment will then take place at the Dettweiler Meeting House Cemetery.

In recognition of Rod's strong commitment to education and the church the family invites donations in his name to the Sawatsky Visiting Scholars Fund at Grebel or to Mennonite Central Committee and can be arranged through the funeral home at 519-745-8445 or the Edward Good website, or through Conrad Grebel.

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