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The following email was sent to the campus Oct. 31:

Rosie Bukics, Acting Clerk of the Faculty, has informed the faculty of the death of Professor Emeritus Earl A. Pope. He is survived by his wife, Mim, to whom condolences may be sent at this address: Covenant Village of Florida – C326, 9201 W. Broward Blvd., Plantation, FL 33324.

A memorial resolution committee has been formed and is headed by Professor Rinehart, Department Head of Religious Studies. The following information has been supplied by Eric Ziolkowski, Dana Professor of Religious Studies:

Earl A. Pope, Helen H. P. Manson Professor Emeritus of Bible at Lafayette College, and a trail-blazing scholar of the religious situation in Eastern Europe during the era of communist domination, passed away on October 18, in Kindred Hospital, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was 91 years old.

Born in Tulca, Romania, in August 18, 1920, Pope immigrated to the United States with his parents, Moses and Lena Pope, celebrating his 3rd birthday aboard the ship on the way over. After growing up in Akron, Ohio, where he graduated from Garfield High School in 1939, he attended Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, earning an A.B. in Religion and a M.A. in Theology. He proceeded to Yale University Divinity School, where he took a M.Div. degree in History of Christianity. While at Yale, in 1948, he met Miriam (Mim) Nilsen, at Cromwell, Connecticut; they were married on September 9, 1950.

For the next decade, Pope was the minister of churches in Floral Park, N.Y. (1950-53), and in Cranston, R.I. (1954-57) and Rumford, R.I. (1957-60). While serving at the Rumford church, he also served for two years as a teaching fellow at Brown University, where he also completed his education with a Ph.D. in Religious Studies and American History.

In 1960, Pope joined the faculty of Lafayette College, where he taught in the Department of Religion for the next 30 years. While rising through the ranks of assistant, associate, and full professor, and eventually being named (in 1988) the Manson Professor in Bible, he also served in several administrative positions, including Head of the Religion Department (1977-1985) and Dean of Studies (1970-1972).

Always highly popular and effective as a teacher, Pope was honored with Lafayette’s Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Faculty award for superior teaching (1970) and the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback award for distinguished teaching and contributions to the campus community (1980).

Pope’s numerous scholarly interests ranged from church history and dogma to biblical studies and ecumenical issues of partnership, understanding, and justice. Pope began as a specialist in American religious history, publishing a major book on New England Calvinism and the Disruption of the Presbyterian Church (1987). Beginning in the early 1970s, however, his scholarly attention was increasingly drawn to the religious life in Communist-dominated countries of Eastern Europe, and he came to be widely recognized as a ground-breaking authority on that subject, as well as a leader within national and international organizations dedicated to the culture and politics of Romania. He traveled often there, and in 1977-78 he was an International and Research Exchanges Board Award recipient and a Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Scholar in Romania. Later he was awarded the Romanian Patriarchal Cross of Honor for his ecumenical contributions, and in 1980 coordinated a conference on Romanian studies at Lafayette.

As a Senior Fulbright Professor at the University of Bucharest in 1992-94, Pope participated in numerous religious and educational organizations and events, and also organized a highly successful seminar entitled “Encounter of Religions in the Black Sea Area” at the Black Sea University, Mangalia, Romania. The seminars, which continued for a number of years afterwards, aimed at promoting interreligious cooperation and tolerance in a region traditionally beset by religious tensions and conflicts. The program drew participants representing various Christian churches and denominations, as well as Jews and Muslims, from twelve different nations: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia. He was appointed a trustee of the Black Sea University, and selected for inclusion in Who’s Who in the World.

In 1989, Pope was elected to the executive committee of Christians Associated for Relations with Eastern Europe, and in 1987-89 served as president of the Society of Romanian Studies. He was a consultant to the International Academy on Religious Freedom, which conducted its first conference in Romania. He also was a member of the Fulbright Selection Committee, an international observer at Romania’s 1992 presidential and parliamentary elections, and a trustee of the Albert Schweitzer Award for Humanitarians, established in 1986 by Dr. Alfred Toepfer of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to advance humanitarianism in the U.S. through recognition of extraordinary achievement.

Earl Pope is survived by his wife, Mim, of sixty-one years; two brothers, Dr. John Pope of Kirkland, Washington, and Mr. Bruce Pope, of Paducah, Kentucky; two daughters, Marilyn Griffin of Stuart, Florida, and Laurel Daly of Alexandria Virginia; and by two grandsons, Danny and Patrick Daly, ages 21 and 18 respectively.

A memorial service will be held for Earl Pope at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, November 12, at Covenant Village Chapel, Plantation, Florida. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations for the Earl Pope Memorial Guest Lectureship Fund. Contributions can be mailed to: The Development Office, 307 Markle Hall, Lafayette College, Easton, PA, 18042.

Categorized in: Faculty and Staff


  1. Gayle and Roger Farr says:

    Earl was a wonderful person, so gentle and unassuming – one wouldn’t know when meeting him how important he was or that he was one of the foremost authorities on religion in Romania and Eastern Europe under communism.
    Roger and I met Min and Earl in Romania when he was there in 1977. Mim and I taught together and so got to know both very well. Because of Earl & Mim, I went to Israel to meet them there and ended up purchasing my wedding dress at a shop at the 6th Station of the Cross. Earl got us into religious places that were not open to tourists because of his connections with the church and I learned so much about the Christian heritage there from being with them during that trip.
    Earl & Mim visited us several times in the UK and in Portugal and we’ve kept in contact. Earl was one of the truly great people that I’ve encountered during my life time and that wasn’t as a student – so I know he has helped countless people to a deeper understanding of religion. Our sympathy and love go to Mim and his family during this time.
    Gayle and Roger

  2. Riley K Temple says:

    You should also know that his daughter, Marilyn, is an alumna of Lafayette. She graduated in 1974, Lafayette’s first class of women.

    Riley K. Temple ’71
    Trustee Emeritus

  3. Rebecca Jackson says:

    While I never met Professor Pope, his brother Bruce recommended I call him before beginning a project in Romania. He was most gracious and helpful. He followed the progress of our project and helped me understand the school system there. He will be missed by many but many more will be enriched here on earth and in the life to come because of his work. May God be with family and friends as you celebrate his life.

    1. Bruce Ben Pope says:

      Thank you, Rebecca!

  4. Mark W. Lee BA'46; MA'52 says:

    As a native of Akron, Ohio, and taking the same degrees at Wheaton in the same years as Earl Pope did, I am proud to accent his contribution to our shared beliefs, both in education and ln Christian ministry. Persons like Earl suggest how a person may become ‘worthy’ to the meaning of life and Christian ministry. Courage to his family at this time of temporary ‘loss.’. Mark Lee

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