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Remembering Pamela Bright

Eulogy recalls her significant contributions to Concordia's Department of Theological Studies
November 23, 2012

Pamela Bright at the April 2011 Theological Studies Reunion.

Pamela Bright, a full professor in Concordia’s Department of Theological Studies, passed away peacefully on November 16 at the age of 75 after a long battle with cancer. Bright taught at Concordia for 20 years, and was the chair of the Theological Studies Department from 1995 until 2006.

Bright was passionate about her research, and as graduate program director enjoyed teaching and working with graduate students. She was among the founding members of Loyola International College, recently renamed the Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability. Bright’s husband, Charles Kannengiesser, also taught in the Department of Theological Studies.

Bright’s friend, family members and colleagues gathered to remember her at a funeral service in Loyola Chapel on November 21, presided over by Rev. Raymond Lafontaine, a part-time faculty member in the Department of Theological Studies. The department’s current Chair, Lucian Turcescu delivered the eulogy.

Eulogy by Lucian Turcescu
Dr. Pamela Bright was the Chair of the Theological Studies Department here at Concordia University from 1995 until 2006 and a Professor of Historical Theology. Her undergraduate studies were in classics, history and theology at the University of Queensland, Australia. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, with an MA in 1983 and then a PhD in 1987.

Dr. Bright joined the faculty of Loyola University in Chicago and then in 1992 was hired here at Concordia. Her publications were focused in the literature, history and art of early Christianity. She was a specialist in Augustinian studies and the interpretation of Scripture in Roman North Africa and Egypt. She, her beloved husband Dr. Charles Kannengiesser, and I shared an interest in patristics and early Christian studies and used to meet at conferences in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

When I first met her at a conference in 1997, she was desperately trying to rebuild the department that by then had only one or two full-time faculty. Then I had the privilege of working with her on the executive of the Canadian Society of Patristic Studies, of which she was the president between 2002 and 2004.

When I joined the theology team at Concordia as an associate professor in 2005, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there were already five full-time faculty, one internationally famous patristics scholar (in the person of Dr. Charles Kannengiesser, an emeritus professor from the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic Institute of Paris) who was working as an adjunct faculty, and the department had flourishing graduate and undergraduate programs.

To this contingent one should add the invaluable part-time faculty members who are providing our students with a great teaching experience. The faculty members that Pamela hired have helped make this department great. Theology after Pamela is not just what it used to be, but much more.

Our department was initially associated with the educational vision of the Jesuits because it was part of Loyola College. While maintaining the intellectual rigour of its foundations, the department is now a respectable teaching and research unit in the humanities sector of the Faculty of Arts and Science.

Our faculty are the recipients of teaching and research honours and awards. They boast outstanding publications with some of the most prestigious publishers in the world, and 60 to 90 per cent of us hold research grants that amounted to as much as $100,000 per year. We are moving quickly but seriously in the direction of opening a PhD program.

The dignity and courage with which Pamela battled her cancer over more than eight years was something that kept all of us amazed. While accepting the treatment the doctors prescribed, she always refused to give up her projects and did not accept the idea that she could be defeated. This year alone, she designed and oversaw the development of an online course in Celtic Christianity. Her last few weeks were spent completing the work for that course and, in fact, she wrote the notes for her last class a few days before she died. This online course will be an important legacy that Dr. Bright will leave the Department of Theological Studies and Concordia University and the academic community.

Over the past few days, I kept hearing amazing things about Pamela and I quote here from the emails I received about her: “Dr. Bright was a treasure and she touched our lives in so many ways that we will have cherished memories of her. She was a unique scholar, someone who was learned, generous, and totally committed to both her students and her studies; an exceptional professor and a real lady. I was very impressed yet again by the depth of Pamela’s faith, by her courage in the face of obvious suffering, by her tender love for Charles, by her profound gratitude for life and love and friends, and her words of encouragement and love to all who visited her in the hospital. There are those who are bigger than life and who have left their footprint in our hearts and minds. Pamela was such an individual. Dr. Bright was more than a scholar or a mentor to me. She was like a second mother and a wonderful spiritual guide. One Yiddish-speaking colleague described her as ‘a real mensch’ (that is, a person with admirable characteristics).”

For many colleagues, students, family and friends, Pamela was a mentor, a hero, a generous person who had a vision. Many women in particular, faculty, staff, and students who worked with Pamela, consider her as a role model.

Pamela’s passage from this world into the afterlife was referred to as “a sad moment in a courageous life.” That is certainly the perception of those of us who are left here after her departure. But the Christian hope in the afterlife and the resurrection assures us that here and “now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then [in the presence of God] we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:12-13). May God rest you in peace, dear Pamela, and may you continue to grow from glory to glory in his presence.

Related links:
•    Department of Theological Studies
•    "Nov. 21 - Funeral service for Pamela Bright" — NOW

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