Jack T. Sanders died on January 21, 2016, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, at the age of 80. He was born in Grand Prairie, Texas, on February 28, 1935. He earned his B.A. degree from Texas Wesleyan College, a master’s degree from Emory University, and his Ph.D. degree from the Claremont Graduate University in Southern California in 1963. After spending a postdoctoral year at the University of Tübingen, Germany, he shuffled through three teaching positions before landing at the University of Oregon in 1969. There he stayed, serving as head of the Department of Religious Studies for many years before retiring in 2002. He and his wife, Susan Elizabeth Plass, then moved to Pendleton, Oregon, to enjoy a quieter, more relaxed life in a drier climate.
Sanders was the author of numerous scholarly articles and books. Most of his published work deals with one of two subjects: the way in which religious ideas flowed from one culture to another and were adapted into new contexts (New Testament Christological Hymns; Ethics in the New Testament; Ben Sira and Demotic Wisdom; and Charisma, Converts, Competitors); and the origins of Jewish-Christian conflict (Jews in Luke-Acts and Schismatics, Sectarians, Dissidents, Deviants).
After moving to Pendleton, he became interested in local history and produced two more books. “Samuel Rothchild: A Jewish Pioneer in Eastern Oregon in the Days of the Old West” brought attention to an important but forgotten pioneer businessman and civic leader in eastern Oregon and central Washington, and also emphasized the role that Jews played in the development of the West. Most recently, he organized and edited “War on all Fronts,” a collection of reminiscences of World War II by Umatilla County residents, published in 2015 by the Umatilla County Historical Society.
In 1959, Sanders married Patricia Chism, who died in 1973; together they had a son, Collin Thomas Sanders (Shelly), born in 1965, now living in Gig Harbor, Washington. In 1979 he married Susan, a UO graduate student at the time, and they enjoyed a very happy, deeply compatible marriage for almost 37 years. Sanders was a highly ethical and rational man who was concerned with social justice; after retiring from the UO, he continued to teach in informal ways. He enjoyed listening to classical music, writing, traveling, fly fishing, and gardening; and he was an avid follower of politics and of national and world news.
He is survived by his wife and son and by a brother, Ed, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Bell Tower Funeral Home of Post Falls, Idaho, has been entrusted with arrangements. Please share your thoughts and memories of Jack in his online memorial at www.belltowerfuneralhome.com.