ESR Shares Memories of John Punshon

We are saddened to share the news of the passing of John Punshon, former ESR faculty member. John was a beloved member of our community. 

"John Punshon was the first holder of the Geraldine Leatherrock Chair of Quaker Studies at Earlham School of Religion. For a decade (July 1991- June 2001) he anchored that portion of the ESR curriculum. John brilliantly combined an interest in Quaker history with a passion for a living faith. He found a home in Indiana Yearly Meeting while living in the Midwest, and was recorded by that group as a minister of the Gospel. Beneath a layer of British formality was a playful spark that further endeared him to those whom he encountered. Whether in a classroom, meeting for worship, a Reds baseball game, or sipping a pint in his favorite pub, John added joy and depth to the experience. He was a bright light for so many of us; I, like many others, will miss him terribly." Dean, Jay Marshall

John Punshon

Tributes from Students and Faculty

"I loved John's quiet humor.  We had a little joke about hugs.  John would claim he did not like to be hugged.  So on the day of graduation, when he was officiating in the Commons Room for the final step in our graduation, I hugged him.  Startled at first, then he gave me a sweet smile and I think he enjoyed it. When we were planning our graduation celebration, he said "just don't use that silly verse about trees bowing down" but we did.  I guess he had heard it just one to many times. I will miss him." –Ingrid Fabianson

"John was no longer on the faculty when I came to ESR, but I was fortunate to have been around at one of those points when he came out of retirement to teach an intensive. It was a great privilege to have some time in the classroom with him. There were many things to appreciate about John--his wry English sense of humor and deep concern for others come to mind--but particularly significant for me was his profound appreciation, as an unprogrammed  British Friend, for pastoral Friends in North America. He could speak to both parts of our tradition with integrity, and he was never stinting with either honest criticism or heartfelt encouragement. Friends could accept both of these as gifts because of his humility and clear commitment to Christian Quakerism. We are better for his service in our midst." -Brian Young

"We can't always have Godly thoughts during an hour of worship, and find ourselves thinking about whether we turned off the stove, mentally make a list of things to do, or rehearse our response to someone's behavior.  Accept  these thoughts, John tells us, because they are a. part of the life we are offering to God.  His words changed my life and my worship."-Barbarajene Williams

"I came to ESR when John was still teaching Quaker studies here. I enjoyed getting to know him. I especially appreciated the time he spent with the faculty and staff during our "Fox trot," as he called it -- our trip to Quaker sites around England in 2001. Steve Spyker brought along a video camera and recorded much of that trip and John's talks with us. The two videos are available online: video one and video two. You can skip through and find lectures and conversations John had with us as we traveled to various Quaker sites." -Tim Seid

"John Punshon was a delightful, warm, gracious, generous friend and mentor to myself and many, many more. His incisive scholarship elevated the fields of Quaker history and theology, and he wrote a winsome prose that drew many into his writings and led us to engage with his insightful and provocative analyses. He modeled the well-rounded life. I equally enjoyed attending Cincinnati Reds games with him, and listening to his disquisitions on the origins of the names of English pubs. He will be greatly missed." -Stephen Angell

"John was my colleague at Woodbrooke from 1979-1991. I value all he brought to my life. He was warm, supportive, challenging and deeply rooted in the Quaker approach to the Christian faith. During that time he made contacts with American Friends that broadened our links and we were not surprised when he took up the opportunity to move to ESR and continue to grow in understanding and involvement in the wider Quaker world. I felt he became a sympathetic interpreter of American programmed and evangelical Quakerism in particular, not least to those of us in the unprogrammed liberal tradition. There was a breadth to his sharing of what was essential in our various approaches from which so many must have gained. I shall take many good memories and great appreciation of a fine person to his memorial meeting on April 7 in Milton Keynes." - Chris Lawson, Minehead, UK

"John spoke several times at First Friends Meeting in Greensboro. And he was always well received with his loving, powerful messages and his always present sense of humor. Each time (with again a smile) he teased the Meeting about the incredibly big pulpit he was expected to speak from… his words actually planted seeds. The pulpit is now a good deal smaller. Thanks John for the wideness, kindness and endurance of your ministry."  - Deborah Suess

"It was the first day of my first class at ESR in 2000. John was trying to get the initial handouts organized and ready for the class. There was some difficulty the way things had been put together and he was having some trouble. Some of us jumped up, eager to help him. He stopped what he was doing, asked us to take a seat and firmly, but kindly, told us something that I have often repeated in my years in ministry and that was, "Helpful people are often not very helpful. You must learn this as ministers, as professional helpers."

Thanks to John I always check my impulse to help and discern whether my help is necessary or desired and whether it would be truly benefit the other person or just be for my own benefit. Thank you John for this life lesson." - Katherine Jaramillo 

"Towards the end of my first year I went to John, my advisor, with written ideas about five different projects I could do as my third year field education.  He looked them over thoughtfully then turned to me and said, in his lovely English accent, “Well, Frances, these are all very good ideas if you want to practice what you already know. But it seems to me that field education offers the opportunity to create new ways for you to minister based on new learnings. So I would encourage you to keep open to small nudges or thoughts at the back of your mind that may be leading you.”  That conversation changed my life.

A few years later John and Veronica, along with my two kids, were my family at my Quaker wedding in England, and we kept in regular touch over the years. They were my family as I adapted to life in England. I'm so glad David and I were able to visit with them in late January after his gruelling series of treatments. John was his regular perky self, though a little frail, and looked great as always, in his red sweater and tie and cozy lap blanket. I will miss him." - Frances Stacy

If you have a tribute you would like to have added to this page, please send it to Mandy Ford at

Notes of condolence can be sent to John's wife Veronica at the following address:

Veronica Punshon
34 Eridge Green, Kents Hill
Milton Keynes MK 76JE
United Kingdom