Friday, October 12, 2012

Religion professor passes away

Colleagues remember PLU professor Kathlyn Breazeale

By Jessica Trondsen, Managing News Editor

Kathlyn “Kathi” Breazeale, associate
professor of religion
at Pacific Lutheran University,
passed away Sept. 23.
Photo courtesy of Marit Trelstad
Associate Professor of Religion Kathlyn “Kathi” Breazeale did not use militaristic language to describe her cancer.
Breazeale was not “fighting” or “battling” cancer, her colleague, Marit Trelstad, chair of the religion department and associate professor of religion, said. “She was living with it.”
Trelstad said Breazeale referred to the cancer she had for two years as her “adventures in health.” Trelstad recalled that Breazeale, who always looked for the positive side of her diagnosis, was told by her doctors to eat seafood daily to keep up her white blood cells. “She was very excited about that,” Trelstad said.
The Office of the President notified the campus via email Sept. 25 that Breazeale had passed away Sept. 23.
Breazeale joined Pacific Lutheran University faculty in 2001 and became a tenured associate professor in 2006, the email stated. While at PLU, Breazeale taught courses on peace studies, faith and spirituality, feminist and womanist theologies, women and evil, and women, nature and the sacred.
Breazeale’s course on feminist and womanist theologies is part of the women’s and gender studies program. Lisa Marcus, associate professor of English and chair of the women’s and gender studies department, said she “is still processing” Breazeale’s death. “It’s hard to refer to her in the past tense,” Marcus said.
Breazeale did not teach during the 2011-2012 academic year, but began teaching again this fall. “She didn’t want to stay out of the classroom any longer. She wanted to resume what she loved to do,” Trelstad said.
Marcus described Breazeale as an “unfailingly generous colleague and human being.” Breazeale always worked to empower students, Marcus said.
Trelstad said Breazeale was a considerate person who “always took time to ask how you’re doing. She was a good Southern hostess.”
Professor of history Beth Kraig said Breazeale “laughed easily” and “tended to have a smile on her face.”
Breazeale was a sailor who loved the ocean and a dancer, Trelstad said. Trelstad said Breazeale performed interpretive dances of scripture passages at chapel three or four times over the years.
Breazeale is the author of “Mutual Empowerment: A Theology of Marriage, Intimacy and Redemption,” which was published in 2008.
Breazeale was “very consistent from theologies to practices to teaching,” Trelstad said. Breazeale was a process eco-feminist theologian, who saw God as in dialogue with the world, Trelstad said.
Breazeale grew up in Natchitoches, La. and was raised during pre-racial integration, Trelstad said. Because of the civil rights movement, Breazeale “committed herself to a lifelong practice of including diversity of voices,” Trelstad said.
Kraig said Breazeale “thoroughly rejected violence, cruelty and dehumanization.”
Breazeale has family in Texas, California and Louisiana. She is survived by her partner, Jon Berkedal, and parents Archie and Cynthia Breazeale, the email stated.
A scholarship is set up in Breazeale’s name through the PLU Office of Development.
“We will all miss Kathi,” Kraig said. “Yet Kathi is also very much with us, and her legacy will be visible in the warmth and care and joy that her former students and colleagues express in their lives.”