On November 20, 2014, R. Judson (Jud) Carlberg passed away. Jud served on the Board of Directors since the early days of BioLogos in 2009, and chaired the Board from 2012 until his final illness. He was my friend and mentor for a few short years. I wish I had known him longer.
I must have met Jud briefly at some earlier BioLogos event, but our first real encounter was during my job interview. As we chatted over a long dinner, I remember my respect for him increasing minute by minute as I sensed his warmth, his wisdom about the future directions of BioLogos, his savvy at slipping interview questions into ordinary conversation, and his honesty about the challenges I would face if I took the job. In the first year of my presidency, I benefited time and again from the wealth of wisdom he earned over decades as President of Gordon College and as a national leader in Christian higher education. He was always available to me for questions, and advised me on everything from the posture of leadership to shopping for office space. He willingly gave of his time and energy, traveling around the country to build relationships for BioLogos with constituents and leaders.
On Saturday, January 17, I joined hundreds of mourners at a service in the Gordon College chapel to remember Jud. The service reflected his loves: fishing, classical music, building institutions, great hymns, mentoring young leaders, science, old spirituals, his beloved wife Jan, his dear children and grandchildren, and most of all his Lord Jesus Christ. The winter sunlight streaming through the chapel windows added to the sense that we were experiencing a bit of heavenly light along with Jud. His favorite song, “Give Me Jesus” (arranged by Fernando Ortega) is still echoing in my ears: “You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.” Indeed, Jud lived out the attitude described by Paul in Philippians 3: Worldly accomplishments are nothing compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ.
During the service, we heard leaders, friends, and family describe the same qualities I had first experienced over dinner—Jud’s dignity and wry humor, his wisdom and leadership savvy, and his humility and faith. Francis Collins, founder of BioLogos and director of the National Institutes of Health, told the congregation of Jud’s battle with multiple cancers and his service to BioLogos in the midst of it all. He painted a beautiful picture of Jud in heaven, meeting up with those great fishermen of the Bible—Peter, Andrew, James, and John. They are hanging out their nets, not to catch fish but to collect the wonders and truths of creation, from galaxies to symphonies to particle physics. What a great day of rejoicing it will be, when we all see Jesus and comprehend the glories of heaven and earth!
BioLogos has made a contribution to the Carlberg Scholarship in Global Education at Gordon College in memory of Jud's leadership in Christian higher education. Stay tuned for details about a long-term program to remember Jud's leadership on the BioLogos board.