John Roe (1959-2018)

At the end of March I was saddened to learn of the passing of John Roe, a professor of mathematics at Penn State University whom I had gotten to know through the Association of Christians in the Mathematical SciencesJohn moved from England to the United States in 1998 to join the math faculty at Penn State University.  Even while he was still in England, John was a ACMS member, but after his move to the US, he became increasingly active, attending the summer conferences, serving as a Board member, and speaking at one of the joint meetings receptions.
From the opening lines of his obituary:
John Roe — mathematician, teacher, 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.
I felt blessed every time I interacted with John. Below is an excerpt from a post on the 20th ACMS Conference:
20th ACMS Conference Day 2

The day began with another excellent devotional from John Roe (who has graciously contributed his thoughts on GodandMath.com in the past). Personally, I feel blessed after every time I hear John Roe speak – he just has a way about him that seems infused with grace and deep spiritual understanding. John led us through Ephesians 3:14-19 with particular focus on the four dimensional analogy used by Paul:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Some of John’s points:

  • When thinking of the love of God, don’t think in abstractions. Think of the concrete. Think of the cross.
  • Wideness – if you fold your arms across your chest this is the typical position of religion; inclusive and safe. If you stretch your arms wide open this is the position of Christ on the cross.
  • Longness – (a dimension of time perhaps) God’s patience and love are endless. God’s love wins because it endures more than we do.
  • Highness – The son of Man was lifted up. Christ does not shrink from being on display in that shameful place; He doesn’t hide.
  • Deepness – How deep Christ went – down to earth, down to the grave. How deep in our own hearts are the places that He can reach. He went there and He proclaimed freedom there.

To me, John Roe was a concrete example of the love of Christ. He will be missed here on earth but we rejoice in knowing that he is in the presence of his savior.

All to the glory of God
Succeed at home first
Communicate every day
Seek the heart of worship
Move out of the comfort zone
Teach from the heart
Prepare the ground for insight
Start with what matters most
Love alone endures

 

You can read John’s post as a guest contributor to GodandMath regarding his interest in the mathematics of sustainability: “Creation Care as a Focus for a General Mathematics Course.”

Here he is live and in person in a TEDx talk.

Mathematics for Sustainability will be published by Springer in May 2018.
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