David C. Hester, former Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary dean, dies

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Rev. Dr. David C. Hester, 70, dean of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary from 2005 to 2012, and the seminary’s Harrison Ray Anderson Professor of Pastoral Theology, professor of Christian education and director of the Doctor of Ministry & Continuing Education programs, died following an illness on Friday, May 8.

David HesterA memorial service will be held Friday, May 15, 2015, at Highland Presbyterian Church (1011 Cherokee Road, Louisville, KY 40204) at 2 p.m. A private interment will take place at Louisville Seminary.

Hester was born in Parsons, Kansas, on May 21, 1944, and earned degrees from Duke University (Ph.D. in Old Testament studies), Bangor Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and the University of Maine (B.A.). Ordained to the Presbyterian Ministry, he served churches in Maine and North Carolina as well as Whites Memorial Presbyterian Church in Kentucky.

In 1979, he became an assistant professor of religion at Berea College in Kentucky, where he served until 1985 when he joined Louisville Seminary’s faculty as associate professor of Christian education. His background in philosophy and biblical studies and his personal experience in rural and urban ministries provided an added dimension to his teaching of Christian education.

Experienced in balancing administration and teaching, Hester served as faculty director of the Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion and as a consultant on board education for a number of boards of trustees of theological schools and seminaries. During his time as Louisville Seminary’s dean, Hester guided the faculty through the final steps in the process of its curriculum review in the Master of Divinity degree program and served on the seminary’s strategic planning committee.

“David was devoted to superior teaching,” said Louisville Seminary Dean Susan R. Garrett. “He loved being in the classroom himself and sought to inspire other teachers whether they be the faculty colleagues with whom he worked as dean or the generations of pastor-teachers he taught in his Christian education courses.”

In his publications Hester explored the interfaces between biblical interpretation and Christian education, as well as between congregational studies and governance of religious institutions. These include a number of articles and chapters as well as First and Second Samuel in the Interpretation Bible Studies Series (Geneva, 2000); Job in the same series (Westminster John Knox, 2005); and Building Effective Boards for Religious Institutions: A Handbook for Trustees, Presidents, and Church Leaders (Jossey-Bass, 2000), which he co-authored with Thomas P. Holland.

Hester delivered the 1991 Convocation address, “Fear of God and the Beginning of Knowledge: Wisdom and Church Education.” His last sermon, “Elisha and Na`aman: Crossing Boundaries and Healing Strangers” was delivered in Louisville Seminary’s Caldwell Chapel on April 24, 2015.

Prior to his death, Hester was engaged in research and writing related to interfaith relations and religious education and served on the planning committee for Louisville Seminary’s Doors to Dialogue program. He was also heavily involved in the planning of Louisville Seminary’s annual Festival of Theology as well as the seminary’s Edwards and Presler lectures.

“David Hester was a wise and loving friend, a distinguished biblical scholar, Christian educator and theologian, and a remarkably able and sensitive leader,” said Louisville Seminary President Michael Jinkins. “I recall vividly the first time we met when he joined our collegium of Presbyterian deans. I remember returning home from the first meeting he attended and realizing that I had found a colleague whom I admired and a friend I trusted immediately. Many of us have similar memories of David as a colleague, teacher or pastor. The shock and sadness we feel at his death is simply impossible to communicate. But in the midst of our sorrow, we are heartened that he is now in the presence of the God who is, as a poet has said, “ ‘mercy clothed in light’.”

Hester is survived by Gale Hester, his wife of 52 years; his children David Lee Hester, Paul Logan Hester, Michelle Elizabeth Hester Stillwagon, and Jason Aaron Hester; 8 grandchildren; and his brother Herschel G. Hester III.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Louisville Seminary Student Book Assistance Fund by calling (502) 992-9352 or (800) 264-1839, extension 352.

by Chris Wooton, Louisville Seminary