Pioneer Woman Bible Scholar is Dead: Dr. Leona G. Running
by Monte Sahlin
By AT News Team, January 24, 2014
Dr. Leona Glidden Running, age 97, professor emerita of biblical languages at Andrews University, died on Wednesday (January 22) in Berrien Springs, Michigan, after nearly six decades of service to the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University (AU). She was a pioneer in a field that is still largely dominated by men in an era when there was no discussion of making a role for women among the denomination's clergy.
“During her long and productive life Dr. Running broke new ground," stated Dr. Niels-Erik Andreasen, president of AU. "She was the first female professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Takoma Park (Maryland) and later here at Andrews. She was the first Adventist woman to earn a doctorate in Ancient Near Eastern Studies (at Johns Hopkins University), with a specialization in ancient Syriac texts. She overcame the grief of losing her husband early in life and built her exemplary academic and professional calling. Following her retirement she continued to share her linguistic skill with graduate students (Syriac, Egyptian, Akkadian, Hebrew, Aramaic, and almost any other language these students cared to learn). And she served the University with her editorial talents, improving a good many of its publications over the years. She was an inspiration to many and an example to us all.”
“Dr. Running holds a special place in the hearts of her Old Testament and Seminary colleagues and former students," said Dr. Jiři Moskala, dean of the seminary. They "greatly appreciated her mentoring during their Seminary years. She was … indeed a woman of remarkable skills and influence. We praise the Lord for her life and faithful ministry!”
She “assisted more students in writing doctoral dissertations than any other faculty member of Andrews University," stated Dr. William Shea, another Adventist Old Testament scholar who worked closely with her on a number of projects. "She has probably touched the educational lives of more Seventh-day Adventist ministers than any other woman except Ellen White.”
Born on August 24, 1916, in Flint, Michigan, to Charles Comstock Glidden and Leona Mary Bertha Boat Glidden, Leona showed an early attraction to languages. Her mother, a teacher, began coaching her in reading skills when she was 3 or 4, and she entered Grade 4 at age 8. She graduated from Adelphian Academy in Holly, Michigan.
Running graduated from Emmanuel Missionary College, the institution that later became AU, as valedictorian in 1937 with a BA in modern languages. She went on to earn an MA in the two main Bible languages, Greek and Hebrew, from the Adventist Theological Seminary in 1955, and a Ph.D. in Semitic languages from Johns Hopkins University in 1964.
She married Leif (“Bud”) Running on May 17, 1942. On August 20, 1946, when Bud was 37 and Leona almost 30, he died while undergoing his third lung operation.
Running served the Adventist Church in many capacities. From 1944 to 1948 she worked in the Foreign Language Division of the Voice of Prophecy media ministry, translating programs and typing scripts in German, Spanish and Portuguese. In 1950 she moved to Washington, D.C., to become the copy editor for Ministry magazine. During these early years, Running often earned far less than her male counterparts for doing the same amount of work. Nevertheless, she continued to do God’s work, traveling to many European countries, promoting the Adventist faith and, at the same time, expanding her cultural experience.
Running began working for the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in 1955, teaching Greek and Hebrew. At the time, the president of the seminary was skeptical about a woman’s ability to teach male students and male students’ willingness to be taught by a woman. She began teaching on a trial basis, but in 1956 she was granted regular faculty status and, shortly after, full tenure.
Not content to sit on the sidelines and watch her students, Running was actively involved in their professional and personal development, and her guidance helped countless individuals find their voice. Her strength and determination during a time when women were not always treated as equals with men, even within the church, were an inspiration to many.
When the seminary was moved from Takoma Park to Berrien Springs in 1960, Running came with it, continuing on as a valuable and dedicated professor of biblical languages. Siegfried Horn, professor of the history of antiquity at the seminary, nominated her to the Chicago Society of Biblical Research and she served as the first female president of the noted, interfaith scholarly group in 1981–82.
Among her many interests, Running traveled extensively. In 1951, she traveled with Del Delker to the Paris Youth Congress and to seven European countries. Later she published 36 Days and a Dream, recounting their trip. In 1957, she joined Siegfried Horn’s first guided study tour in Europe and the Middle East. She wrote another travelogue from this trip, published in 1958 as From Thames to Tigris. In 1965 she traveled through Europe and studied six weeks in Israel, ending with a trip through western Turkey and a cruise of the Aegean isles. In 1970, she again traveled through Europe to spend eight days in Iran, a weekend on Cyprus, and 10 days in Israel. In 1974, she taught during a summer session at Newbold College in England, then spent three weeks in France and Germany.
For many years Running collected articles, journals and books on women in ministry. She donated the collection to the Center for Adventist Research in the James White Library. The most notable of her multiple publications is William Foxwell Albright: A Twentieth-Century Genius, published by Morgan Press in 1975. It is a 436-page biography of the man known as the “Dean of Biblical Archaeologists.”
She retired from her faculty position at her 65th birthday, but for 21 years she continued to teach Egyptian, Akkadian and Syriac in the seminary, finally quitting in May 2002. At the May 2012 commencement ceremony, Running was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Andrews University.
Besides countless former students and friends around the world, she leaves to mourn her nieces, Merry Habenicht Knoll and husband Thomas Russell Knoll Sr. of Walla Walla, Washington, and Cheeri Lee Roberts of Queensbury, New York, along with grandnieces and grandnephews: Rebecca Knoll Lawrence and husband Jay Lawrence of St. Charles, Missouri, with two children, Matthew and Michaela; Thomas Russell Knoll Jr. and wife Deanna Marsh Knoll of Olympia, Washington, with two children, Judson and Jakob; Jonathan Andrew Knoll and wife Bonnie Rick Knoll of Burleson, Texas, with two children, Makena and Emmalee; Deborah Knoll of Naples, North Carolina; Teresa Roberts and husband Falah Fatmi of Fairfax, Virginia, with Sophia and Sabrina; Heidi Roberts of Hood River, Oregon; and Eric Roberts of New York City.
Much of the information in this article is from an obituary provided by Andrews University.