SCARBOROUGH – Robert Wood Lynn, died Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, at the age of 93, with his loving wife and companion of 66 years, Katharine Wuerth Lynn, by his side. His passing was peaceful, bringing the gift of rest after a life of great contribution, love, faith, fortitude

and joy.

Robert Lynn was a teacher, scholar, and leader who helped nurture the study of religion and the practice of Christian education in the United States throughout the second half of the twentieth century. While a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, he pioneered in the historical study of Christian education in America. Serving simultaneously as Dean of Auburn Seminary, he encouraged much-needed attention to the institutions and history of theological education. Later, as Senior Vice President for Religion at Lilly Endowment Inc., he developed grants programs addressed to understanding and renewing theological education, congregational life, and other areas of American religion, with steady concern for how such institutions might serve the common good.

Following his retirement from Lilly Endowment in 1989, Lynn focused his research attention on the fraught relationship between faith and money in American Protestantism, and at the request of Indiana University helped to organize and launch the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving. He also served as a member of the Corporation of Yale University, where he led the search for Yale’s 22nd president, Richard C. Levin, in 1993.

While Lynn’s work with institutions will be remembered, his impact on individuals was also deep and wide. A gifted teacher, careful listener, and wise reader of texts and people, he helped numerous scholars and educators find their way to their best work. Many have said that they went to the Lilly Endowment for a grant and instead got a conversation with Bob Lynn that helped them even more.

At 6 feet, 7 inches, Robert Lynn was a person of memorable height and character. Gracious, modest and gently humorous, he combined a keen critical mind with persistent hopefulness. His kindness, wisdom, and generosity of spirit will live on in the lives he touched, the institutions he influenced, and the body of knowledge he fostered.
Robert Wood Lynn was born in 1925 in Wheatland, Wyo., the youngest of four children of William MacGregor Lynn and Janet Reid Lynn, two homesteading Presbyterians with a passion for religion and education. Bob grew up in Torrington, Wyo., and Cheyenne, Wyo., and after army training attended Princeton University (BA 1949) and Yale Divinity School (BD 1952). For the next several years he served as an associate pastor for adult education at Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church in Denver, which further developed his interest and gifts in teaching, and in 1954 he enrolled in doctoral studies at Union Seminary, earning his Th.D in 1959 in Practical Theology.

Robert is survived by his wife, Katharine; their two daughters, Elizabeth and Sarah; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his brothers, Greg and John Lynn; his sister, Margaret Lynn Brinkley; his and Katharine’s daughter, Janet Lynn Kerr; and their son, Thomas Taylor Lynn.

A memorial service to celebrate Robert’s life will be held on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018 11 a.m. at State Street Church UCC, 159 State St., Portland. A gathering will take place in the church hall following services. Parking will available at the Conroy-Tully Walker Funeral Home. Burial will be private at the convenience of the family.

Arrangements are under the direction of the Conroy-Tully Walker Funeral Home, 172 State Street, Portland, ME. To view Robert’s memorial page, or to share an online condolence, please visit

Memorial donations in Robert’s memory may be made to
Yale Divinity School in support of student scholarships
(409 Prospect Street
New Haven CT 06511), or to
a favorite library of one’s choice.

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