UCSB community members are mourning the passing of Wade Clark Roof — a renowned professor of religious studies and the founding director of the school’s ethics, religion and public life organization the Walter H. Capps Center.
Dr. Roof passed away last week at the age of 80.
The Walter H. Capps Center’s Facebook page posted around 10 a.m. Wednesday, notifying its almost 350 followers of Dr. Roof’s death.
“It is with profound sadness that we let you know of the unexpected death of our dear colleague, Wade Clark Roof,” reads the Facebook post. According to the message, which was about 250 words, the professor passed away Aug. 24.
Learning of Dr. Roof’s passing stunned UCSB’s Chancellor Henry T. Yang.
“One of our nation’s leading sociologists of religion, Professor Roof leaves a towering legacy as an academic, as well as an influential body of work,” said Dr. Yang.
Indeed, Dr. Roof has left behind an array of publications concerning religion and spirituality, writings that the world can read and ponder.
His work “Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion,” for example, studies how the baby boomers has formed a “quest culture,” which gave birth to a market of beliefs and practices where folks can explore the metaphysical world. Dr. Roof studied deeply this quest culture, surveying members of the post-World War II baby-boom generation. The findings from the surveys can be found in the paper “Spiritual Seeking in the United States: Report on a Panel Study.”
Several global leaders have been brought onto UCSB’s campus thanks to Dr. Roof. Among these leaders were Nobel Prize winners Shirin Ebadi and Tawwakol Karman; U.S. Ambassador and Pulitzer Prize winning author Samantha Power; and retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the U.S. Sandra Day O’Connor.
All the way to his retirement celebration, Dr. Roof was bringing important figures to the UCSB community, including Lois Capps — a U.S. congresswoman from 1998 until 2017 and the wife of Walter H. Capps, the UCSB professor, U.S. congressman and center’s namesake.
“When the Capps Center was established with a $500,000 award from the U.S. Congress in 2002, Clark was invited to serve as the founding director,” said Dr. Yang at the ceremony. “He did so happily, even though he was also serving as the Chair of the Religious Studies Department. In honor of his achievements, in 2005, an endowed lecture series was established in Clark’s name. This is the ‘Wade Clark Roof Lectures on Human Rights,’ a part of the Capps Forum on Ethics and Public Policy. The subject of human rights not only exemplifies Clark’s own deep concern of humanity. It also was very close to Walter Capps’ heart.”
The lecture series is ongoing, and last year’s lecture featured constitutional law scholar Howard Gillman on the subject of free speech.
Dr. Roof was transparent and outspoken about his research agenda.
In 2016 on the website of the University of North Carolina, where he obtained his PhD, Dr. Roof wrote, “The country’s continuing unresolved issues have in many ways influenced my research agenda. Today’s Donald Trump phenomenon, Black Lives Matter, Islamophobia and the proliferation of guns and violence all remind us of how so many of our major national issues remain unresolved.”
Currently, those who knew Dr. Roof and his work are sharing their condolences and favorite memories of him by using the hashtag #WadeClarkRoof on Twitter.
University of Colorado religious studies professor Stewart Hoover, for example, tweeted Monday, “I — along with many others — am shocked and saddened by the death of Wade Clark Roof. A trusted friend, mentor, supporter…. I will miss him…. #wadeClarkRoof”
Sociologists Julie Ingersoll and Tricia Bruce shared photos they have captured with Dr. Roof, while Samuel Avery-Quinn reflected on the impact Dr. Roof’s works have had: “Books by #WadeClarkRoof and Bob Wuthnow and Christian Smith were the pillars of my Masters program readings. R.I.P. Dr. Roof.”