Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan, world class Church historian and theologian, fell asleep in the Lord on Saturday afternoon, May 13, after a lengthy battle with cancer.
For decades, Dr. Pelikan served as an historian, theologian, professor, author, and ordained minister in the Lutheran Church. He and his wife were received into the Orthodox Christian Church in Three Hierarchs Chapel at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY, in 1998.
Dr. Pelikan was recognized by many as the most noted Church historian of our times. Born in Akron, OH, the son of a Lutheran pastor, he joined the Yale faculty in 1962 as the Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History and in 1972 was appointed to the Sterling Professorship. In 1995, he was named Sterling Professor Emeritus. He served as acting dean and then dean of the Graduate School from 1973 until 1978 and was the William Clyde DeVane Lecturer from 1984 until 1986 and in the fall of 1995. His more than 30 books include the acclaimed five-volume work “The Christian Tradition.”
Dr. Pelikan’s numerous awards include the Graduate School’s 1979 Wilbur Cross Medal and the Medieval Academy of America’s 1985 Haskins Medal. In 1983 the National Endowment for the Humanities selected Professor Pelikan to deliver the 12th annual Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, the highest honor conferred by the federal government for outstanding achievement in the humanities. In 1992-93 he presented the Guifford Lectures in Scotland, an honor considered comparable to winning the Nobel Prize. He has been editor of the religion section of Encyclopedia Britannica, and in 1980 he founded the Council of Scholars at the Library of Congress. His numerous professional affiliations also includes the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of which he is president. During the administration of President Bill Clinton, he was appointed to serve on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
Dr. Pelikan was appointed chairperson for the Orthodox Church in America’s Department of History and Archives in 2002. His lifelong experience as a renowned historian served to guide and inspire the department’s work. In a presentation to the Holy Synod of Bishops in October 2003, he eloquently addressed the importance of history in Church life and the necessity of proper archival preservation in the Church at all levels.
In 2004, Dr. Pelikan received the John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Human Sciences.
Among his countless activities, professional and personal, Dr. Pelikan served as a member of the seminary’s board of trustees. Three Hierarchs Chapel remained his “parish home” since the time of his reception into the Church.
On Tuesday, May 16, the Funeral Service will be celebrated in the seminary’s Three Hierarchs Chapel at 7:00 p.m.
The Divine Liturgy will be celebrated on Wednesday, May 17, at 9:00 a.m.
Further information may be found on the seminary web site at www.svots.edu. A detailed personal reflection on Dr. Pelikan’s life and work written by the Rev. John Erickson, dean of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, may be found at www.svots.edu/Events/Summer-Institute/2003/readings/Pelikan-Legend.html.
May Dr. Pelikan’s memory be eternal!