STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 04/09/2015

Remembering Jud Carlberg

R. Judson Carlberg, who served Gordon College for 35 years, including nearly 20 years as its president, died November 20, 2014, after a battle with cancer. He was 74.

Born in 1940 in the mill town of Fall River, Massachusetts, he was the son of a Baptist pastor, and named for the missionary Adoniram Judson. With an undergraduate degree from Wheaton College (Illinois), a divinity degree from Denver Seminary and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University, he joined Gordon in 1976 as dean of faculty. From 1990 to 1992 he was senior vice president for development, and in 1992 he became Gordon’s seventh president.

An expansive view of Christian vocation, keen intellect, sharp wit and an unpretentious personal style were hallmarks of his leadership. “Jud Carlberg was a giant in the field of Christian higher education,” said Gordon President Michael Lindsay, who succeeded Carlberg in 2011. “He also had a formidable influence within the wider academy.”

His substantial legacy at Gordon includes transformative growth of its physical campus, coupled with equally transformative growth in faculty appointments, programs and cultural engagement; he shepherded development of programs in global education, visual arts, and other disciplines. His leadership helped shape an expansive vision of Christian vocation in a pluralistic, rapidly changing world. Buildings completed during his vice-presidency and presidency include the Bennett Athletic and Recreation Center, Barrington Center for the Arts, Phillips Music Center, Ken Olsen Science Center, and A. J. Gordon Memorial Chapel (where his memorial service was held).

Dr. Carlberg saw no division between Christian faith and rigorous scientific inquiry, as his close involvement in the BioLogos Foundation testifies. “This godly, thoughtful, visionary man served ably as Chairman of the Board, helping in countless ways to share the good news that science and faith are wonderfully complementary ways of understanding God’s creation,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Carlberg also held leadership roles on the boards of Denver Seminary, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the American Association of Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities, and the Council of Independent Colleges.

“There was an undercurrent of safety in his razor-focused questions and perfectly placed pearls of wisdom,” Denver Seminary President Mark Young said. “I trusted him to do what was right and noble and above reproach.”

It’s an assessment emphatically shared by those who knew him as husband, father and grandfather. “He was unimpressed with himself (credentials, titles, roles, accolades) but impressed by us, his
family. We flourished under him,” said his wife, Janice Dawn (Jensen) Carlberg. “His ability to listen—he was always interruptible—made him a wonderful dad, husband and grandfather. He coached his kids in sports and supported their varied interests. Through his love, example and support, Jud encouraged me to be more than I’d dared without him.”

Dr. Carlberg was a lay leader for many years of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts, and in recent years often worshiped at Christ Church (Episcopal) in Hamilton, Massachusetts. “I held Jud in great esteem while a student and after,” said Jennifer Paglierani ’66. “But in recent years, at Christ Church, I have seen Jud in an even more important role—that of a grandfather. It warmed my heart
to see this great man carrying his little granddaughter Kate through the sanctuary in his arms.”

His 60th birthday present from his family was a fishing boat; he enjoyed fishing out of Gloucester Harbor with friends, and trips up the Annisquam River to the back of Crane Beach. On frequent trips
on behalf of the College the Carlbergs enjoyed exploring the environs of Gordon’s overseas programs. They cherished cruises with friends including a Prairie Home Companion cruise to Scandinavia with their favorite storyteller, Garrison Keillor. In all these settings Dr. Carlberg found a reason to quote, with winsome commitment, the mission statement of the college he and Jan loved to call home.

In addition to his wife of 51 years, Dr. Carlberg is survived by their daughter, Heather Carlberg, her husband, Matthew Willis, and their children; their son, Chad (a 1995 Gordon graduate), his wife, Kristina Harter, and their two daughters; a brother, Carey Carlberg; a brother-in-law, Jim Abts; and nieces and nephews.

From the Memorial Service

“Follow Jesus! Follow Jesus! That was Jud’s touchstone.”
—Dr. Francis Collins, director, National Institutes of Health, and founder of the BioLogos Foundation

“Conversations with Dr. Carlberg were so profound and formative that they continue to guide my life today. Jud taught me—he taught us—that God’s power and plans are bigger than our weakness, and that in the end, giving our all to follow Jesus and not look back is more than worth it.”
—Rev. Becky Manseau Barnett ’01, pastor

“He valued the liberty in the liberal arts, and a Christian vision that relinquished its fear of artistic expression and scientific inquiry. He did value that fragile ideal of freedom within a framework of faith.”
—Dr. Mark Sargent, former Gordon College provost

“My dad loved learning—learning through listening, through travel, through experience. He loved this place, Gordon College, and the people who bring life to it.”
—Dr. Heather Carlberg, psychiatrist

“Jud was at home in the Scriptures. They gave him courage and hope.”
—Dr. Marvin Wilson, Harold John Ockenga Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Gordon College

“His instinct for leadership, paired with a genuine interest in others . . . gave him a capacity to evolve. By the time of his death, my father had become perhaps the most open-minded, self-led person that I have ever known.”
—Chad Carlberg ’95, advertising creative director