Why I Am Including Union in My Will

Why I Am Including Union in My Will

Categories: 1836 Legacy Circle, Alums in the World

Dr. Mark Juergensmeyer ’65

Award-winning author and university professor Dr. Mark K. Juergensmeyer, M. Div. ’65, wrote the following statement about why he has included Union Theological Seminary in his will:

“Being in Reinhold Niebuhr’s last seminar—just being there—and watching James Muilenburg thunder down the aisle of the lecture hall while recreating the Genesis story of God walking in the garden, and hearing John Bennett’s carefully stated moderate social ideas (which we all knew were watered down versions of the more radical ideas that he got from Anne), and climbing up on a chair to tack the words ‘I vindicate liberal theology’ on the slightly pompous painting of Henry Pitney Van Dusen in the UTS social hall: these are memories that endure.

“But to tell the truth, the most significant encounters I had at Union were with other students whose names I hesitate to list for fear of leaving someone off, since they were so many, their bright faces etched in my memory. The conversations we had were vital parts of my social and intellectual education, held in the refectory long after lunch had been forgotten, late at night in the men’s bathroom in Hastings Hall, and in the social hall on Sunday evening when everyone returned from field work. I remember the stunned solidarity of my fellow students when we heard that JFK was killed and when a group returned breathlessly from the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights where they had just witnessed the assassination of Malcolm X.

“We cannot recreate these memories and friendships for new generations of students at Union. But we can help to make it possible for them to make their own discoveries and find their own insights through the kind of support that will make it possible for Union to continue to challenge and inspire future generations of socially active seminarians. One of the easiest ways to do this is to include Union in our wills.

“Some years ago at Berkeley, my wife and I arranged a meeting with the wife of a colleague of mine, the sociologist Robert Bellah. His wife Melanie was an attorney and had agreed to help us with our wills, so we came to the living room of their home steeled for what we expected to be a dreary experience.

“‘Isn’t this a wonderful occasion,’ Melanie said at the outset, as my wife and I glumly contemplated our own mortality. Why, we asked, was she being so cheerful? ‘Well, lucky you,’ she responded. ‘You can give all this stuff away and still keep it.’

“She was right, we affirmed. It is a pretty good deal, to give all this stuff away and still keep it, at least while we’re still alive. Even better, it is comforting to know that whatever we have saved in our lifetimes will be put to good use later on. And what better use than helping to perpetuate the unique spirit that is Union Seminary, and make our own experiences possible for future generations.”

Dr. Juergensmeyer earned his Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley, and is a professor of sociology and global studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has won many academic awards, including Unitas Distinguished Alumnus from Union, and is the author of a dozen books, including Gandhi’s Way, the Oxford Handbook of Global Religions, and Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence.