Joseph C. Williamson D.Min., 1964
June 07, 2008
Joseph C. Williamson, compassionate author, scholar, and preacher who sought to reveal truth through activism, died of heart failure in Maryland on June 7, after a prolonged battle against Alzheimer’s disease. He was 75.
Williamson served as Princeton University’s dean of religious life and dean of the chapel from 1989 to 2001. An advocate for an open church and uplifting the poor, Williamson’s life work on the intersection of religion and politics often provoked action and controversy.
“The Rev. Dr. Joseph C. Williamson was an extraordinary man whose prophetic witness in the world transformed the landscape of humanity,” said Deborah Blanks, associate dean of religious life at Princeton. “He did it by standing in pulpits, behind university lecterns, and marching during civil or human rights movements sounding the trumpet, to those who dared to listen, encouraging us to live lives that mattered and always do that which would lift and liberate all people…”
Raised in Massachusetts, Williamson spent formative years in Kansas City, Missouri, graduating from Southwest High School in 1950. He received his bachelor’s degree from Eastern Nazarene College in 1954 and his bachelor of divinity degree from Nazarene Theological Seminary in 1958. He received a master’s degree from Andover Newton in 1964, and remained as assistant professor of theology and preaching for six years. After receiving a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1968, Williamson served as pastor and co-pastor of the federated Presbyterian and Congregationalist Church of the Covenant in Boston. He also was a member of the faculty at Boston University from 1973 to 1983.
Before moving to Princeton, from 1983 to 1989, he served as senior minister of the Plymouth Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Seattle.
“He answered Martin Luther King, Jr.’s call to the clergy,” said Donna DiSciullo, Williamson’s wife of 26 years. “He believed the church and society are so intimately related that they inform each other. Social justice was his heart, his passion. He was a sweet man.”
Williamson is survived by his wife, Donna DiSciullo. They both had adult children from previous marriages. Survivors include: sons Gregory and Brent; daughters and their spouses Pia and Alfred May and Elise and Peter Goodwin., two grandchildren, Benjamin Joseph Shay Matt and Eva Clarissa May; a brother, Nazarene pastor (Olathe, KS Christ Community) John Williamson; and a sister, Maylou Cook. His middle son, Clayton, preceded him in death.
A memorial service was held Aug. 9 at 3 P.M. at the Church of the Covenant in Boston, MA. The family asks that donations be made in Williamson’s name to the: Alzheimer’s Association, 225 N. Michigan Ave., Floor 17, Chicago, IL 60601-7633.