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Professor Levin, a lifelong scholar, dies at 79

February  03, 2012

A memorial service for the Rev. Dr. Arnold Levin will be held at Augustana’s Ascension Chapel at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, followed by an informal gathering in the Wilson Center with Dr. Levin’s wife Gloria, their four children and their families. Dr. Levin’s family is preparing a memory book; they invite former colleagues and students to share their memories by email.

The Rev. Dr. Arnold G. Levin, Augustana professor emeritus of religion, died Tuesday, Jan. 31, at the age of 79. In the last few months of his life, encouraged by his church's pastor, he wrote about living with faith when challenged by difficult circumstances.

"Acceptance of death as a stage in life becomes a reality, but not welcomed as a friend at first," Dr. Levin wrote. "The cycle of nature is part of the plan of God for all of life. An end point will come quickly for us all, but we need to adjust the reality of our life to include this end point, not as an enemy but as the final gift of a loving God. If we accept our mortality, we can accept life as a gift."

Those who knew Dr. Levin would not be surprised that he had devoted himself to a writing project on the Gospel of Mark during his illness. After working his way through eight chapters of the Gospel of Mark, reading new articles and challenging himself to think about new interpretations of scripture, Dr. Levin wrote five chapters on the Gospel of Mark for his church's educational program.

The project gave him a better outlook "in the dark days of winter," when his body ached from chemotherapy. "The treatments didn't bother me if I had some new interests to consume my waking moments, even if it was just a phrase in the Gospel of Mark that required further reading and research," he wrote.

A scholar throughout his life, Dr. Levin graduated from the University of Oregon and the Augustana Theological Seminary. He was ordained as a pastor in the former Augustana Synod in 1960. After receiving his doctorate of theology from Harvard in 1966, he accepted a teaching position at Augustana, where he taught religion for 32 years. He was the last member of the college's faculty to have been ordained into the ministry of the Augustana Synod.

Dr. Dan Lee, professor of ethnics at Augustana, described Dr. Levin as a conscientious, dedicated scholar and teacher who believed in excellence in the classroom. "It was my privilege to be one of his colleagues for more than 20 years," Dr. Lee said. "He made a difference in the lives of many generations of students."

A couple years ago, former student Pastor Brant Clements '79 wrote a thank-you note to Dr. Levin titled "How Many Angels" in his blog. An excerpt reads: "I used to see Dr. Levin in campus church, paying close attention to the sermons, sometimes jotting notes, occasionally preaching himself, standing to sing the hymns loudly and lustily. Dr. Levin was a person of faith. Perhaps without intending it, Dr. Levin taught me that one can read the Bible critically, carefully, closely, intelligently and even question its facticity and still be a person of faith."

Clements was saddened to hear of his professor's passing and noted, "Dr. Levin was an important influence on my intellectual and spiritual development. He taught me a more mature understanding of the Scriptures, from which I came to a deeper and more adult faith."

Funeral services for Dr. Levin will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, at Zion Lutheran Church, Anoka, Minn. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorials be made to the Zion Youth Scholarship Fund or Augustana College.