In memoriam: John Roe

John Roe served as a member of the PA IPL Board from 2012-2015.  While factual, that is such an inadequate expression of the truth that it feels empty.

John joined the Board and became our Treasurer just a we we became an independent 501c3, and needed to move from informal Excel-driven records to something formal that would could continue to grow into for years to come.  Many people faced with this task would have done a couple of web searches, asked a few folks who might know a little bit more than they, and quickly assented to whatever seemed manageable — or simply declined the “honor” of serving as Treasurer in the first place.  Not John.  John did not do things part way.  John taught himself a great deal about nonprofit bookkeeping, and then nonprofit financial software, and sought solutions that would allow PA IPL to be nimble, but also as functionally transparent as good management requires, despite the challenge that we are a statewide organization and could not possibly build in sufficient oversight for financial records housed in just one place.

Similarly, he singlehandedly moved us from a rag-tag startup’s antiquated website to WordPress, building in sufficient backup and more robust technical assistance.

Most importantly, though, there was never a time in John’s service when he was not thinking deeply about our mission, and, in his example, challenging members of the board, staff, and volunteer leaders to lean into the hard parts, to find ways to develop and shape our voice, to speak and act as people truly rooted in faith, responding to the challenge to care for the Earth and the fullness thereof, the Earth and all who live therein. (Psalm 24)

John died at home, with family, in the darkest hours of the morning on Friday, March 9, 2018.  We miss him.

It is with gratitude for the gifts John cultivated and shared, with sadness that he no longer inhabits our Common Home, and with recognition that his leadership lives on in the hearts of so many at PA IPL and far, far beyond that we share his obituary, along with some links to his work and writing.  The obituary appears last.

John read and reflected on Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home deeply, and led a 6-session ecumenical study of the text.  Read his reflections.
Reading Laudato Si
Chapter 1: Our Common Home
Chapter 2: The Gospel of Creation
Chapter 3: The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis
Chapter 4: Integral Ecology
Chapter 5: “Escaping the Spiral”
Chapter 6: “It is we who need to change

John’s TEDxPSU talk debuted in 2015 and as he was developing the Math for Sustainability course, that led to the book which will be published in May 2018 (links below in the obituary for the book and website)

More about John’s life from John himself.
This obituary was published in Centre Daily Times on Mar. 17, 2018.  The link will take you to the Legacy.com page, where there is an online guest book.

John Roe October 6, 1959 March 9, 2018 John Roe — teacher, mathematician, rock climber, theologian, activist, and follower of Jesus — has departed from family and friends as well as the pain of cancer and has begun “a more focused time of peace and joy” with his Lord.

John was born and raised in England and was fascinated by mathematics from an early age. As a teenager he received a classical education at Rugby School, where he discovered his gift of expository teaching and experienced one of the big surprises of his life by becoming a Christian. At the University of Cambridge, John earned degrees in mathematics and played guitar in a Christian rock band. His doctoral research was conducted under Professor Sir Michael Atiyah at the University of Oxford, where he remained for a post-doctoral fellowship. As a visiting researcher in Berkeley, Calif., John met Liane Stevens, whom he married in December 1986. John taught mathematics at Jesus College, Oxford until 1998, when the family, now including two children, made a major move to the United States.

At The Pennsylvania State University, John was a professor of mathematics for 20 years, serving as Department Head for five years. John’s deep faith and study of Scripture motivated him to follow the example of Jesus by promoting equitable treatment of those without privilege and by welcoming marginalized individuals, including his younger child, who identified as transgender. His passion for the outdoors and rock climbing inspired his advocacy for the environment and sustainability, and he became a U.S. citizen in order to vote in the 2016 election.

John reflected with honesty and grace about his cancer journey, which began with diagnosis and extensive treatment at the age of 54. Links to John’s blogs about faith and sustainability, math, rock climbing, cancer, and transgender individuals can be found on his website.

John was an author of over 50 academic publications, including several books. His most recent and cherished project was the undergraduate textbook Mathematics for Sustainability, to be published by Springer in May 2018 [book website; review at the American Mathematical Society

John was devoted to his family: Liane, his wife of 31 years; his older child Nathan; his mother Judy Roe; his brother and sister-in-law Tim and Lindi Roe; and members of his extended family. He was preceded in death by his beloved younger child Eli (Miriam) Roe and his father Michael Roe. A memorial service will be held on Sunday April 8, 2018, at 3:00 p.m. at State College Presbyterian Church (132 West Beaver Avenue, State College). Donations in John’s memory can be made to MAP International, providing global health care to people in need; The Reformation Project, promoting inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church, and Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light, responding to climate change as an ethical and moral issue.