Charles Anthony Ryerson III
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1933 - 2016
Charles Anthony Ryerson III, PhD died peacefully surrounded by former students and friends on Saturday, September 24, at the Medical Center of Princeton, at the age of 83. He was the son of Ada Littlefield (1890-1985) and Charles Ryerson (1892-1981) of Middletown, Rhode Island.

Dr. Ryerson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1955 from Oberlin College, the Master of Divinity degree in 1961 from Union Theological Seminary in New York, and a Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Columbia University.

During the 1970s, he did doctoral research at Madurai University and was an associate lecturer at the Tamil Nadu Theological College in Madurai, India. In 1979, he joined the Princeton Theological Seminary faculty as Assistant Professor of the History of Religions and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1986. During these years, Dr. Ryerson also regularly taught a course titled, "Religion and Society in India" for Princeton University's Department of Religion. In 1994, he was inaugurated as the Elmer K. and Ethel R. Timby Professor of the History of Religions. He was also awarded an honorary "Doctorate of Divinity" by the Academy of Ecumenical Indian Theology in Madras, India, in recognition of his services to the Indian church and Indian higher education. In June of 1999, he retired from Princeton Theological Seminary and became Professor Emeritus.

He authored books on the religious experience of South India, Encounter in South India; and Regionalism and Religion: The Tamil Renaissance and Popular Hinduism; and an autobiographical account India Reflections, 1955-2003 as well as numerous articles. He also developed a summer internship program in which Princeton seminary students traveled to India to experience the culture and the religious phenomena that they had read about in class. This trip became a formative experience for dozens of future ministers and educators, and Dr. Ryerson saw it as an "arduous and exhilarating adventure to guide theological students into voyages of discovery, pilgrimages into new worlds of meaning, explorations of other understandings of the universe." The historian of religions, he said, was "always trying to understand the un-understandable, and to experience what others experience." For more than forty years, Dr. Ryerson was a trustee of The American College Foundation, in Madurai, India, serving many years as president.

He is survived by his sister, Ruth Bouliew of Saginaw, Michigan, nephews Kenneth Bell and Charles Bell; grand-nephews and nieces Andrew Bell, Anthony Bell, Melissa Bell Petzold, Melonie Bell Brown, Ashley Bell Jordan, Jack Cohoon, and Casey Cohoon;and many great grand-nieces and nephews. A funeral service will be held at on Saturday, October 1 at 1:30 p.m., at St. Columba's Berkeley Memorial Chapel, 55 Vaucluse Avenue, in Middletown, Rhode Island. A memorial service will be held at Princeton Theological Seminary at a time yet to be determined. Memorial contributions may be made to the "The Trustees of the Endowment Fund of the American College, Madurai, India," 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 1020, New York, NY 10115.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in New York Times from Sep. 30 to Oct. 1, 2016.
Memories & Condolences
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7 entries
February 20, 2017
I just learned of my beloved friend's death! Many years ago we shared wonderful times in New York and Taiwan , developing a strong, lasting bond. Thank God for Charlie's life! Ann McCurdy Collier
October 13, 2016
Our mentor, Guru, and a great friend. praise God for his life and ministry.Celebrating a life well lived. We will cherish the memories forever.
V. S. Varughese, Gigi, and Sam
varughese v. s.
October 3, 2016
Charlie and I spent so many memorable times in India, Princeton, and Rhode Island. I was his sidekick on many adventures. Many thanks, I will miss you.
Grafton Eliason
October 1, 2016
To the Ryerson Family: My heartfelt sympathies go out to the family and friends during this difficult time. I hope that the promise in 1 Thessalonians 4:14 can bring comfort. Knowing that there's a hope for the ones we have lost in death can be so reassuring.
September 30, 2016
Charlie has always been a special guy for me, though we never really spent a lot of time together. He and I met as I was about to go off to India for the first time, and following my college graduation. He originally went to India on the same program that sent me, the Oberlin Shansi organization, and he showed up to help orient me as I was leaving. His enthusiasm, sense of humor, and notions of wicked irony just amazed me. I'll never forget his saying, ''You're gonna love India. It'll ruin your life.'' Right he was, in the best way possible. Later, in was in Tamilnadu as a graduate student and he showed up again, this time to give me some much needed support when I was in one of those occasional ''India funks'' that seem to drain energy and enthusiasm. I don't remember what he said as he took me out to eat, but it did the trick. I invited him to come and speak at DePauw when I was there, and he was a sparkling hit among students full of stories and anecdotes and charming whoever crossed his path.

What always struck me about him was how Indians loved him. He had this magic that attracted admiration and praise. Not a single Indian I know had anthing bad to say about him.

A great guy and very much a pioneer in Indian studies: he had a missionary appointment for a few years and did an enormous amount to dignify among academics the role missionaries could play. I found him down-to-earth, funny, a bit ornery, and very generous with what he knew and with his time.
William Harman
September 30, 2016
Bob and Linda Burkitt
Rest in Peace Charles! You will be missed by all! Say hi to Aunt Ada and Uncle Charles for us.
Linda J. Burkitt
September 30, 2016
May you celebrate and cherish a life well lived and loved by many. God keep those who pass on in his memory because they are precious to him. Psalms 116:15. Ga.
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