Anne Hale Johnson served on Union’s Board of Trustees from 1990 to 2014, and as Board Chair from 1996 to 2005. She died on January 18, 2018, at age 94. “Our magnificent mother was embraced by the arms of the Lord,” her children, Joy and Randy, wrote to family and friends. “In your love for her may you find light.” “We celebrate the powerful, unstoppable life of Anne Hale Johnson, affectionately referred to as ‘the Mother of Union.’ She embodied the best of what the Seminary strives to cultivate – a life of service and of love,” noted Union’s President, Rev. Dr. Serene Jones.
A student of Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1950s, she was a supremely loyal alumna. “Her faith and her strong words and deeds of leadership were inspiring to us all,” said Board Chair Wolcott B. Dunham, Jr. in 2005, when Anne was awarded the Seminary’s highest honor, the Union Medal, for her lifetime commitment to her church, progressive politics, and women’s empowerment globally. Through her leadership and generous philanthropy, she transformed “What is” into “What can be.” After the tragic death of their daughter in the 1987 Amtrak crash, Anne and her husband Arthur William Johnson generously endowed in her memory the Christiane Brooks Johnson Chair of Psychiatry and Religion at Union. They also founded the lobby “Safe Travel America” with other families who had lost loved ones, to promote legislation that, by 1991, began requiring drug and alcohol testing for transportation providers. When Anne retired from the Union Board in 2014, her service was recognized by the Board, which resolved that she strengthened “the Seminary as she spearheaded a $39 million campaign,” and she “endeared herself to all who know her for her warmth; her strong commitment to feminism and progressive Protestantism; her sense of humor; her optimism; her deep Christian faith and her unstinting loyalty to the institutional church.” The Board of Trustees expressed profound gratitude “for this beautiful saint, who, like a stained glass window, has let God’s light shine through her work and person.”
Anne Hale Johnson’s portrait hangs in Union’s Refectory.