In Memoriam: Don A. Pittman

June 29, 2021 -  

Alumnus Don A. Pittman, the William Tabbernee Professor of the History of Religions Emeritus and former Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Phillips Theological Seminary died June 26 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He had joined the PTS faculty in 2000 after having taught for seven years at Tainan Theological College and Seminary in southern Taiwan, where he also served on the regional faculty of the Southeast Asia Graduate School of Theology. A leader in Disciples theological education for many years, he had also served as Associate Dean of Brite Divinity School and as a member of the Brite faculty for ten years. During Don Browning's deanship, he served as Associate Dean of the Disciples Divinity House and, during the 1983-84 academic year, as acting dean.

After earning a BA from Texas Christian University (1970) and a MDiv (1973) and MA (1976) from Vanderbilt University, he entered the University of Chicago Divinity School as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar. He earned his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1987, and later did postdoctoral studies at National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan (1994-95).Trained as a scholar of Chinese Buddhism, he also gained historical and global perspectives on theology and ministry and expertise in cross-cultural studies.

His publications included Ministry and Theology in Global Perspective: Contemporary Challenges for the Church, co-edited with Ruben Habito and Terry Muck (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996) and Toward a Modern Chinese Buddhism: Taixu’s Reforms (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001), plus numerous scholarly articles in English and Chinese. His keen mind and gentle spirit made him a treasured colleague in theological education and among the Association of Disciples for Theological Discussion (ADTD).

He died following a last fierce battle with Parkinson's disease. He is survived by his spouse, Nancy Claire Pittman, who is the President of Phillips Theological Seminary, his mother, Eve, and three daughters, Merillat, Katheryn, and Debra. A memorial service will be held at 2 pm CDT Friday, July 2, at Harvard Avenue Christian Church in Tulsa; it will be livestreamed. Interment will be the following week in Fort Worth, Texas. Read the PTS obituary and more about his contributions.