Dr. John A. Gration, professor emeritus and founding chair of the missions and intercultural studies graduate department at Wheaton College, died Sunday, January 29, at 85.
Following his service in the U.S. Navy, John Gration attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where he met and married Dorothy Harpel. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Bible and philosophy at Gordon College, he moved toward fulfilling a childhood dream of becoming a missionary to Africa. The couple applied to serve with Africa Inland Mission (AIM) and was accepted. In preparation for the mission field, he attended the Wheaton College Graduate School, receiving a master’s degree in theology in 1952. That same year he was ordained by his home church in Ridgewood, New Jersey, completing a short pastorate before leaving for Africa.
The Grations served as missionaries to Africa for 15 years—twelve in Zaire and three in Kenya. Upon their return in the States, he assumed the position of associate home director of AIM. He received a Ph.D. from New York University in 1974 and also studied at Princeton Theological Seminary. Widely respected as a missiologist, he was recruited by Wheaton to expand its graduate missions program in 1975. Dr. Gration committed to join the College’s faculty for one year; 20 years later, he retired.
While at Wheaton, he not only taught missions courses, but also was instrumental in helping create other mission-related programs, including ethno-musicology courses, the Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) program, and the TESOL certification program. Ultimately he laid the foundation for the current M.A. degree programs in intercultural studies.
“John was the heart and soul of the missions department. He was a careful thinker who never forgot that mission ultimately involves action in both speaking and doing,” said Professor and Chair of Intercultural Studies Scott Moreau. “The original curriculum he developed for our degree still serves as the anchor for our current curriculum and speaks of his wisdom and ability to get at the heart of God's mission for the Church.”
In 1994 he received Wheaton College’s Distinguished Service to Alma Mater Award, in recognition of his devotion to the College and its students. “I find nothing more exciting,” Dr. Gration said, “than helping people unpack their dreams. It goes back to my days in the Navy, which were very formative in terms of what it means to pour your life into someone else’s life.”
Survivors include his wife, Dorothy; his son, Scott (Judy); his daughters Barbara (Scott) and Judy (George); and 11 grandchildren.
Visitation for Dr. Gration will be held from 4 - 8 p.m. Saturday, February 4 at the Hultgren Funeral Home in Wheaton, located at 304 North Main Street. The funeral service will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday, February 5 at the Wheaton Bible Church, located at 27W500 North Avenue in West Chicago.