Berkeley Remembers Marilyn McCord Adams

March 29, 2017

Marilyn McCord Adams, formerly Horace Tracy Pitkin Professor of Historical Theology at Yale Divinity School and a much-loved member of the Berkeley Divinity School community, has died after a battle with cancer.

A graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A.) and Cornell University (Ph.D.), Dr. Adams served on the faculties of the University of Michigan and UCLA before coming to Yale in 1993 with her husband, Professor Robert Merrihew Adams. The pair left for Oxford in 2004, Marilyn becoming the first woman, and the first American, to hold that university’s Regius Chair of Divinity.

An ordained priest as well as a first-rate scholar, Dr. Adams was “fiercely dedicated to teaching about the expansiveness of God,” Carolyn Sharp recalls. She was also a powerful advocate for the poor and LGBT people.

“Her sermon ‘Your God is Too Small’ brought many to tears when she preached it in Marquand Chapel on National Coming Out Day,” Carolyn remembers. “Marilyn was a brilliant philosophical theologian who studied the problems of suffering and evil with keen attention, and who gave of herself unstintingly as a teacher and mentor to students in the Divinity School and the wider Yale community.”

The author of nine books, Professor Adams is perhaps best known for her definitive two-volume study of the work of William of Ockham. Her scholarship also addressed such subjects as Christology, the Eucharist, and figures including Thomas Aquinas and Gilles of Rome.

The Yale and Berkeley family celebrates the life, and mourns the loss, of this onetime member of our faculty and community.

A public memorial service will take place in Trinity Cathedral in Trenton, New Jersey, at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 8th, as well as in Los Angeles on May 6th.

Greg Sterling and Andrew McGowan