In Memoriam: Marilyn McCord Adams (1943-2017)

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The Faculty notes with sadness the death at 73 of Marilyn McCord Adams, Regius Professor of Divinity 2004 - 2009.  Prof. Adams was the first American and the first woman to hold that chair.

Prof. Adams earned her Ph.D. at Cornell, and subsequently received DDs from Yale and Oxford.  Prior to taking up the Regius chair, she taught for 21 years at UCLA during that department’s strongest period, and also at Yale Divinity School as Horace Pitkin Professor of Historical Theology.  After her stint as Regius Professor, she held appointments at Rutgers and the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill.  Prof. Adams was one of the 20th century’s premier scholars of medieval philosophy and theology; her two-volume William Ockham (Notre Dame, 1987) remains the standard work on that philosopher thirty years after its publication.  She also made notable contributions to the philosophy of religion.  Her Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God (Cornell, 1999) substantially shifted debate on the problem of evil with its focus on “horrors,” a particular category of evil.  Her own positive approach to the subject, e.g. in Christ and Horrors (Cambridge, 2006), was to cease trying to say why God permits evil and instead seek to show how God can be good to His creatures despite evil.  Her other books include Some Later Medieval Theories of the Eucharist (Oxford, 2010).  Prof. Adams was also an Anglican priest.  Many in Oxford will recall her Cathedral preaching: she would flawlessly deliver a 30-minute sermon entirely without notes.  Many will also recall her habit of baking chocolate chip cookies for meetings held in her canonry.  Marilyn, rest in peace.  

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