Deaths

March 11, 2008

John Dillenberger, an instrumental founder of the nine-school Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, died February 7 at his home in El Cerrito at the age of 89. A professor emeritus of historical theology at GTU, Dillenberger developed a strong interest in art history, writing several books on the subject. Ordained in what is now the United Church of Christ, Dillenberger was a navy chaplain in World War II and taught at Columbia and Harvard universities before serving as dean and president of GTU from the mid-1960s to 1972; he returned as acting president in 1999-2000. He had also served as president of Hartford Seminary from 1978 to 1983 and of the American Academy of Religion in 1987, and had served on the board of the Jesus Seminar and Westar Institute in Santa Rosa, California.

The only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, Representative Tom Lantos (D., Calif.), a longtime champion of human rights, died February 11 at age 80 at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center outside Washington, D.C. Lantos was a respected voice for global human rights during his long stretch on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which he chaired after the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006. Lantos died from cancer of the esophagus, said spokesperson Lynne Weil. The Jewish Democrat, who represented San Francisco’s Peninsula suburbs for 27 years, earned widespread bipartisan respect. His cancer diagnosis last year had prompted him not to seek a 15th term in 2008. Jewish groups praised Lantos for his advocacy.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian guru who brought transcendental meditation to the West and attracted not only scientific grants but also celebrities such as the Beatles, died February 5 in the Netherlands, apparently of natural causes, a spokesperson said. He was thought to be 91 years old. More than 5 million people worldwide—including celebrities ranging from the Beach Boys to Clint Eastwood—learned transcendental meditation, which rose to prominence in the 1960s. Maharishi was more interested in courting scientists than celebrities, said John Hagelin, the leader of the U.S. branch of the TM movement. The federal government’s National Institutes of Health provided $24 million over 18 years to study the effects of TM, said Hagelin.