Beloved George Fox University professor Arthur Roberts dies at age 93

December 19th, 2016

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Man influential in naming the school at which he taught for 60-plus years will be honored at memorial service Jan. 7

Arthur Roberts and wife Fern were married 73 years, meeting as students at George Fox College in the early 1940s.

Arthur Roberts and wife Fern were married 73 years, meeting as students at George Fox College in the early 1940s.

NEWBERG, Ore. – To many, he will be remembered as the man behind the name “George Fox College” – thanks to his persuasive letter to the Pacific College board suggesting the school honor the founder of the Quaker movement.

But Arthur Roberts’ legacy extends far beyond an influential letter written in 1949.

Roberts, who died at age 93 on Dec. 15, 2016, was a pillar of the George Fox community the better part of six decades – as a professor of philosophy and religion from 1953 to 1987, as the dean of faculty from 1968 to 1972, and as a professor at large from 1987 until his death.

“A great giant has fallen, but we all have been touched by his vision and contributions,” says Paul Anderson, professor of biblical and Quaker studies at George Fox. “Now the mantle has fallen to us and others, and as he has provided in the past, the Lord’s grace and empowerment will guide the way forward.”

A family graveside service will be held at the Friends Cemetery in Newberg on Friday, Jan. 6, at 3 p.m. A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7, in George Fox University’s Bauman Auditorium.

Roberts was born in Huston, Idaho, on Jan. 7, 1923, to Owen and Bertha (Jansonius) Roberts near Greenleaf, Idaho. The youngest of four children, Arthur grew up on the family farm and graduated from Greenleaf Academy in 1940. He entered Pacific College (now George Fox University) in 1940. While there, he met and married Fern Nixon in the Springbrook Friends Church on Nov. 7, 1943. They were blessed with three children: Lloyd, Patricia and Teresa.

After graduating from college, Roberts served as a pastor and attended Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, where, as a student, he composed a letter addressed to the then-Pacific College board advocating the school change its name to “George Fox College.” The name was selected in 1949.

Roberts later earned a PhD at Boston University and, in 1953, returned to his alma mater in Newberg, Oregon, to teach philosophy and religion. By decade’s end, George Fox – thanks largely to Roberts’ 170-page report that documented the success of George Fox graduates, who compared favorably to grads from accredited schools – gained accreditation.

Roberts was also a prolific writer, authoring more than 20 books, many on Quaker history and religious thought. He was also a farmer, woodworker, mayor (of Yachats, Oregon, from 1997 to 2000), poet, speaker and mentor. He loved to travel and speak truth to diverse audiences. A grant allowed him to live among the Inuit population of Alaska in the 1970s – he later wrote a book about the experience – and in 1981 he was part of the first George Fox group to visit China.

He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Warren Roberts, and sisters Lucille (Roberts) Adams, and Marjorie (Roberts) Wilhite. He is survived by wife Fern (Nixon) Roberts; daughters Patricia Nielsen, of Waldport, Oregon, Teresa Rogers of Newport, Oregon, and son, Lloyd Roberts of The Dalles, Oregon; as well as eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Arthur and Fern Roberts Tuition Grant at George Fox University. Please direct your contributions to this endowed scholarship “In memory of Dr. Arthur Roberts.” Visit or send a gift to George Fox University, 414 N. Meridian St., #6256, Newberg, OR 97132.

George Fox University is ranked by Forbes among the top Christian universities in the country and is a Christian college classified by U.S. News & World Report as a first-tier regional university. More than 4,000 students attend classes on the university’s campus in Newberg, Ore., and at teaching centers in Portland, Salem and Redmond, Ore. George Fox offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 40 majors, degree-completion programs for working adults, six seminary degrees, and 13 master’s and doctoral degrees.


Paul Anderson
Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies
George Fox University

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