Dr. Diogenes Allen, a distinguished scholar in the field of the philosophy of religion, and the Stuart Professor of Philosophy emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary, died on January 13, 2013, at the age of 80 in hospice care at Chandler Hall, Newtown, Pennsylvania. He joined the Seminary faculty in 1967 as associate professor of philosophy, and became a full professor in 1974. He was named the Stuart Professor in 1981. He retired and was named Stuart Professor Emeritus in 2002.
Allen was born in Lexington, Kentucky, on October 17, 1932. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Kentucky in 1954, and went on to study at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He earned a BA (1957) and later an MA (1961) from Oxford. He earned the BD (1959), the MA (1962) and the PhD (1965) from Yale University. His thesis for his PhD was titled “Faith as a Ground for Religious Beliefs.”
Before joining the Princeton Seminary faculty, he taught at York University in Ontario, Canada, from 1964 to 1967. He also was a visiting professor at Drew University and at the University of Notre Dame during his career.
Allen’s scholarly interests focused on the philosophy of Leibniz and Simone Weil, and on the spirituality of Simone Weil, Blaise Pascal, and George Herbert. A prolific author, he wrote books that contributed both to the world of scholarship and to the lives of practicing Christians and church leaders. His major volumes include Theology for a Troubled Believer (2010); Spiritual Theology: The Theology of Yesterday for Help Today (1997); Nature, Spirit, and Community: Issues in the Thought of Simone Weil (1994, with Eric O. Springsted); Quest: The Search for Meaning through Christ (1990); Christian Belief in a Postmodern World (1989); Love: Christian Romance, Marriage, and Friendship (1987); Primary Reading in Philosophy for Understanding Theology (1992); Philosophy for Understanding Theology (1985); Mechanical Explanation and the Ultimate Origin of the Universe According to Leibniz (1983); Three Outsiders: Pascal, Kierkegaard, and Simone Weil (1983); Traces of God in a Frequently Hostile World (1981); Between Two Worlds (1977); Finding Our Father (1974); The Reasonableness of Faith (1968); and Leibniz’s Theodicy (1966). He also wrote many articles in academic publications, and lectured regularly as guest lecturer at colleges, universities, and seminaries.
It was as a caring teacher that many Princeton students and graduates, and members of churches across the country, knew Allen. He was an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), ordained in 1959 at Windham Presbyterian Church in Windham, New Hampshire. He was pastor of the Windham church from 1958 to 1961 and served several interim pastorates during his lifetime. Throughout his life, he regularly preached, taught adult education classes, and led retreats in congregations, a ministry that was as important to him as was his teaching in the classrooms of Princeton Seminary. With the media department of Princeton Seminary, he published a number of video resources and study guides based on his books to help congregations talk about topics from love and marriage to friendship, from suffering to sin. These included video series titled Love: Christian Romance, Marriage, and Friendship; The Significance of Suffering; Temptation; and Eight Deadly Thoughts.
Dr. M. Craig Barnes, the president of Princeton Theological Seminary, was a beneficiary of Allen’s teaching. “Over thirty years ago I had the high privilege of being one of Professor Allen’s many students,” he said. “He had a wonderful gift for teaching us how to turn critical thinking into a spiritual practice.”
Allen contributed to the life of the academy through service on the advisory board of the Transatlantic Perspective at the University of Bonn, Germany; the advisory committee of the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton; the executive board of the Society of Christian Philosophers; the executive board of the Simone Weil Society; and the editorial board of Theology Today. He was the cofounder of and served on the executive board of the American Weil Society. He was a member of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, the Society of Christian Philosophers, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Theological Society.
He was awarded the John Templeton Prize for Best Courses in Science and Religion in 1995 and the John Templeton Foundation Award in Science and Theology in 1992 and 1993.
Allen was a priest associate at All Saints Church Princeton after his retirement. He was a friend of the Sisters of the Community of the Holy Spirit in New York City.
Diogenes Allen is survived by his wife, a daughter, three sons, and eight grandchildren. Contributions in lieu of flowers may be made in Diogenes Allen’s honor to the All Saints Church, Outreach Fund, 16 All Saints Road, Princeton, New Jersey 08540. There will be a memorial service at All Saints Church at a future date.
Princeton Theological Seminary was founded in 1812 as the first seminary established by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. It is the largest Presbyterian seminary in the country, with more than 500 students in six graduate degree programs.
Nikolai Vassilev successfully escaped communist Bulgaria at the age of 29 in 1973. He is survived by his soulmate Elena, who joined him in following his dream to come to America, — they spent 45 years of their abundant life together.
After the first seven years in New Jersey, with hard work and dedication, Nikolai and Elena fell in love with Princeton and opened one of the areas most successful full service European Day Spas, “Beauty Dreams.”
He was a dependable, honest, and loving father to Mimi Vassilev-Baker, Nicole Vassilev Klein, and George Vassilev. A fun loving and big hugging grandfather, “Dedo Niki” will be missed dearly by his four grandsons, Maximus, Austin, Nikolai, and Luka. As much of a friend as a father, Nikolai was an accepting father-in-law to his sons-in-law Brandon Baker and Todd Klein. Memories will certainly include their recent adventurous first deep sea fishing trip in Nikolai’s beloved Naples, Florida.
From a young age, Nikolai was a true audiophile and avid record collector with over 20,000 records in his collection. He never thought twice about making a personalized CD for someone, as it brought him as much joy to make it as to give it.
He loved the saying “life is good”, and in the presence of Nikolai you could see why. Family always came first, and celebrations were filled with love and happiness. Always up for a passionate conversation about art, fashion, cooking, travel, history, music, or politics, Nikolai always managed to make someone laugh and gain a different perspective on life.
Unfortunately as all good things must come to an end, so did the full and colorful life of Nikolai on January 9, 2013 — he was 68. He was taken away from us quickly, but peacefully in his sleep. His family will miss all the joy and laughter he shared with them.
In lieu of flowers, please send a contribution in memory of him and the designation of Princeton House to “Princeton Health Care System Foundation”, where Nikolai was employed since 2004. He truly enjoyed working there and helping everyone he met as much as he could. He lived a blessed life.
Herbert M. Gurk
Herbert M. Gurk was an active member of the Princeton community since 1960. He was a leader of research and development teams at RCA Astro Space Division in East Windsor, president of the Jewish Center of Princeton, member and chairman of several of its committees, trustee on its board of directors, and regular participant in community, charitable, and other volunteer organizations. Dr. Gurk is survived by his wife Maxine Auerbach Gurk and their beloved family, Lisa Herman (Mike) of New Orleans, Louisiana; David Gurk of Ann Arbor, Michigan; Rebecca Gurk (Stuart Mangel) of Columbus, Ohio; and their grandchildren Katie Herman (Mike Noble), Peter Herman, Molly Mangel, Josh Mangel, and Ben Mangel.
Dr. Gurk graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania, where he also earned a PhD in the mathematical theory of games. In 1956, he joined RCA in Camden, where he applied his mathematical training to the fields of communication and digital data processing. He moved to RCA’s David Sarnoff Laboratory in 1957 to become an intelligence data processing manager on Project ACSI-MATIC for the US Army intelligence department. This project was transferred to RCA Astro in 1958. Upon its completion, Dr. Gurk moved to RCA Astro to become a manager in the space systems development programs. For more than 30 years, he was recognized by government agencies and professional societies as an expert in applications analysis and the development of remote sensing and weather satellite systems. He specialized in advanced earth resources observation systems for NASA, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Agriculture, and worked on the integration of weather bureau and Air Force meteorological satellite programs. After his retirement, he was a frequent consultant on U.S. government programs and taught courses on satellite remote sensing for private and government space system laboratories. He published and presented his work on mathematics, space systems, and remote systems at professional and government meetings for more than 40 years.
Starting in 1993, Dr. Gurk became a volunteer reader of mathematics and physics for Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic in Princeton. He also volunteered as a math and physics tutor at Princeton High School. He was a Life Master of the American Contract Bridge League and a sought-after partner for local and regional duplicate bridge tournaments. He remained an avid fan of all Philadelphia sports teams throughout his life.
His family and friends remember his capabilities, enthusiasm, and bright smile in anything he did. In the presentation to him at his retirement dinner, the speaker described him as someone who liked “every show, movie, and book he saw or read, and gave original thinking and life to all his activities.” We will miss him.
Funeral services were held on Sunday, January 13, 2013 at The Jewish Center, 435 Nassau Street, Princeton.
Memorial contributions to Learning Ally, Financial Development Dept, 20 Roszel Road, Princeton, N.J. 08540 or the Jewish Center of Princeton are appreciated.
Extend condolences at TheKimbleFuneralHome.com.