Former students and co-workers remember Kenneth Lawrence, former chairman of the religion department and TCU professor emeritus, as a good friend. Lawrence died unexpectedly on Tuesday, Aug. 15.
“Dr. Lawrence didn’t have many acquaintances, but rather a lot of friends,” said Josh Long, a student of Lawrence’s.
Lawrence came to TCU in 1972 and later served as department chair for 16 years. During his tenure, the faculty of the religion department became more diverse, and additional focus was put on the academic study of religion, said David Grant, professor and current chair of the religion department.
“We wouldn’t be who we are today without him,” Grant said. “His emphasis on the study of religion and the quality of faculty are all part of his legacy.”
The Rev. Angela Kaufman, a former student of Lawrence’s, said Lawrence was most passionate about art and finding religious meaning in it.
Known as “Lorenzo” among friends, Lawrence was an avid traveler who visited several countries, most frequently Italy, said Kaufman, who attended one of his trips to Italy.
“Going on a trip is one thing,” Kaufman said, “Going with Ken Lawrence is another. You see the country through his eyes.”
After his retirement in 2001, Lawrence continued to take students overseas and also taught the Honors’ Program colloquia course, Nature of Values, Grant said.
Lawrence was scheduled to teach the Nature of Values class this semester, as well as a liberal arts course for the graduate program, said Peggy Watson, director of the Honors Program.
“That class was known as one of the best classes TCU offers,” Watson said. “He was definitely missed on the first day of class.”
Nature of Values was not a religion class, but rather an in-depth study of the values found in visual art, Watson said.
Listening to Lawrence share his adventures gave more color to what his students were learning, said Long, a senior finance and accounting major.
“His death was very surprising,” said Long, president of the Honors Cabinet. “It is a loss to all the students that didn’t have him.”
Lawrence also played a key role in the community at University Christian Church, said Kay Higgins, associate dean of Student Development and fellow member of UCC.
Two of his more prominent involvements with UCC included his roles in the artwork of the church and in originating one of the church’s annual festivals, Higgins said.
Bobby Hawley, former teaching assistant for Lawrence and member of UCC, said, “The response in the congregation to Ken’s death was overwhelming; it was the largest funeral I’ve seen in this sanctuary.