Jeschke remembered for shaping Pitts Theology Library

By M. Pat Graham | Emory Report | Jan. 21, 2016

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Professor Emeritus Channing Jeschke, director of the Pitts Theology Library at Candler School of Theology for more than 20 years, helped facilitate acquisitions that established Candler as one of the nation’s top theological libraries.

Professor Emeritus Channing Renwich Jeschke, who served as director of the Pitts Theology Library at Candler School of Theology for more than 20 years, died Jan. 13 at the age of 88.

Jeschke, who was the Margaret A. Pitts Professor of Theological Bibliography and director of the library from 1971 until his retirement in 1994, was recognized for his distinguished career and contributions to Candler with the Centennial Medal in 2014 during the school’s 100th anniversary celebration.

While at Emory, Jeschke was credited with helping facilitate acquisitions that would lay the groundwork for establishing Candler as one of the nation’s top theological libraries. He is especially recognized for helping shepherd the acquisition of some 220,000 volumes from the library of the Hartford Seminary Foundation.

"Channing’s vision of the library as one of the country’s leading Christian research institutions has left an unchanging imprint on the library, the theology school, and the university," notes colleague E. Brooks Holifield, Charles Howard Candler Professor Emeritus of American Church History.

Through Jeschke’s stewardship, the Pitts Theology Library collections would grow to surpass 450,000 volumes before his retirement. He is noted for a special focus on strengthening collections that include English Religious History (110-1920); the Richard C. Kessler Reformation Collection; North European Theological Dissertations and Disputations; the English and American Hymnody and Psalmody Collection; and the Sub-Saharan African Collection.

Jeschke is also credited for his work with New York architect Paul Rudolph on the renovation of the Pitts Theology Library to accommodate the Hartford Collection and later his work with Rudolph on the design and construction of Cannon Chapel.

'Debt of gratitude'

Born in Buffalo, New York, Channing attended Oberlin College for his BA, Yale University for his BD, the University of Chicago for his PhD, and Columbia University for his MS in librarianship. Last summer, he celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary with his wife, Carol Louise Ahrens.

Jeschke was ordained for ministry in the United Church of Christ in 1952 and soon after served as chaplain at the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut. He was also a minister in the North Illinois Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and served on the library staff at the Union Theological Seminary and on the faculty of the Berkeley Divinity School, in New Haven, Connecticut.

He was hired by Candler School of Theology as a theological librarian and associate professor in 1971 and was promoted to professor in 1979, named the Margaret A. Pitts Professor of Theological Bibliography in 1984, and awarded emeritus status by Emory University upon his retirement.

Those who served on Channing’s staff at the Pitts Theology Library remember him fondly for his professionalism, sense of humor and collaborative spirit, his commitment to the library’s role in Candler’s mission, his loyalty to colleagues and friends, and his support for civil rights.

“All of us appreciated the calm, thoughtful and professional manner in which Channing led the library," Holifield says.

“He was always ready to help both students and faculty members with research issues, and Candler owes him a permanent debt of gratitude for his work with (former Candler Dean and Emory President) Jim Laney to bring the Hartford Collection to Emory."

To learn more about Channing Jeschke, read the full tribute from the Candler School of Theology.