Obituary: Philip Algot Anderson

Minister, professor emeritus, college dean, author

Philip Algot Anderson, Jr. died September 26 at Pilgrim Place in Claremont after several years of declining health. He was 96.

He was born March 15, 1922 in St. Paul, Minnesota. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Macalester College in St. Paul, and then a bachelor of divinity degree from the Chicago Theological Seminary in 1946, where he also met and married Phoebe Mellinger. Shortly after their wedding the couple moved for a year to Edinburgh, Scotland, where Mr. Anderson was a fellow in the Congregational Christian Service Committee Exchange.

Returning to Chicago, he served as a minister at the Glenview Community Church from 1949 to 1953 and worked on his dissertation on Gestalt psychology and religious theory. He returned briefly to Scotland to earn his PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 1952. After a year as a visiting lecturer at Dartmouth College, the Chicago Theological Seminary hired him as its dean of students. He continued at CTS as professor of pastoral theology, until he retired in 1987 and with Mrs. Anderson moved to Pilgrim Place. He continued as professor emeritus until his death.

His early interest in Gestalt continued throughout his life. Believing that the message of the church could become more vital by drawing on elements of humanistic psychology, he created classes on topics such as personal transformation, and Gestalt therapy and religious experience. He also wrote numerous papers and two books: Church Meetings that Matter, and The House Church, which he coauthored with Mrs. Anderson.

They also endowed scholarships for seminary students.

His passions included traveling, fishing, dachshunds and reading. His intellect was matched only by his droll sense of humor, including thoughtful misquotes of the Bible, always appreciated by his colleagues at CTS, and polite observations of things Swedish. (He was a second-generation Swede, and once wryly observed that he would have been a psychologist except it wasn’t considered an acceptable field for someone raised in the Swedish Covenant church.) He also loved Dixieland. As Mr. Anderson’s long life drew to a close, two of his closest friends played a recording of “Bye Bye Blackbird” to him, and despite his considerable infirmities, his toes were tapping.

He was preceded in death by his younger brother, Robert Anderson; by his first wife Phoebe, who died in 1999; and by his second wife, Betty Jo Swayze, who died in 2017.

He is survived by his three children: Ross Anderson (Pamela Sanders), of Marshall, Minnesota; Ray Anderson (Suzy Goodspeed) of Setauket, New York; Amy Anderson (Mike Corder) of South Haven, Michigan; his sister-in law Elaine Anderson of Walnut Creek, California; grandchildren Raven Anderson, Anabel Anderson and Claire Anderson; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.

The family wishes to thank Sandra Barrow and Janice Hoffman, as well as countless Pilgrims, both residents and employees, who made his final years so peaceful. A memorial service will be held after the new year.


Submit a Comment

Share This