In Memoriam: Garth Mundle

In Memoriam: Garth Mundle, former Principal of St. Stephen’s College

With great sadness and reflection, the community of St. Stephen’s College mourns the passing of Garth Mundle, former Principal of the College from 1979–1994.  Garth passed away earlier this week in Ottawa.  All our love and thoughts go out to Garth’s partner, Dorothy, as well as to his children Carol and Jim, and to their families and friends.

Principal Mundle was a visionary within the history of St. Stephen’s College.  In the 1970s and 1980s it was a rather novel idea for a theological college to place at its centre anything other than the training of ordered ministers.  But this is exactly that path that Mundle ventured, and he was successful at it!  By the mid-1980s, enrollment at St. Stephen’s was almost split 50/50 between lay students and ordered ministers.  He understood the mission of St. Stephen’s as fulfilling the words of the late theologian, Heinrich Ott: “life for each person should be a permanent ongoing education without trying to make specialists of people.”  Under Mundle’s guidance, the College matured into a centre of advanced theological education and continuing lay education.

In his own words, Principal Mundle saw St. Stephen’s College as a “place of possibilities.”  Under his leadership St. Stephen’s hired its first woman faculty member, it branched out into the then innovative areas of feminist and liberation theologies, and he established new programs such as the Master of Theological Studies (MTS) and the ever-popular Study Tours to places such as Israel, Egypt, Central America, Europe, India, and Korea.  All in all, the “Mundle years” at St. Stephen’s were marked by vibrancy and ambition, all of which flowed directly from the Principal himself.

Yesterday, at our MTS Program meeting, we took a few minutes to swap stories about Garth and his tenure as Principal at St. Stephen’s.  There was much joy and fondness as we recalled his time at the College.  I myself am deeply saddened that, in my capacity as the new Principal at St. Stephen’s, I will not have the opportunity to dialogue with Garth one-on-one.  As we reflect on his life and legacy, we uphold his memory and pray it will be a blessing for all who think on him.

A service to celebrate Garth’s life will occur on Saturday, February 16th at 11:00am at First United Church in Ottawa, ON.

In Sympathy,

Fred Tappenden
Principal and Dean,
St. Stephen’s College, at the University of Alberta