Dr. Donald Max "Don" Lake '59 MA '60 (1937-2017)

March 8, 2017

Wheaton College Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus Dr. Donald Max “Don” Lake died February 28. Lake was 80.

Lake graduated from Wheaton College in 1959 with a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies and completed an M.A. in New Testament from Wheaton College Graduate School in 1960. He earned a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from the University of Iowa in 1967, and did postdoctoral work at Goethe Institute and Universitat Tubingen in 1974 and 1975.

Lake married his wife, Kristen, in 1967, and joined the faculty of Wheaton College in 1970. His achievements include contributing more than 40 articles to The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, and the Tyndale Bible Dictionary.

Starting in the 1950s, Lake served as interim or pulpit pastor of several churches in Missouri, Iowa, and the Chicagoland area.

In a column for the Autumn 1994 issue of Wheaton magazine, Lake reflected on how his Wheaton College education had shaped his life, and how he wanted to affect students as a result.

“As I approach each new year and each new class, I keep asking myself, ‘How do I want to change these students?’ And I keep challenging them to ask themselves, ‘What am I becoming? How have I changed as a result of this course?,’” he wrote. “The call of Jesus to make disciples, and the Biblical teaching that ‘we shall all be conformed to the image of Christ’ challenges me to think of my teaching more as forming character than in teaching a subject or better yet ‘teaching students’.”

Wheaton College President Dr. Philip Ryken ’88 recalls Lake’s avid interest in Wheaton athletics.

“I first met Don Lake at Wheaton College football and basketball games, where he loved to hoot and holler for the Crusaders. In fact, his distinctive voice could sometimes be heard in the background on our sports radio broadcasts,” Ryken recalled. “Dr. Lake brought just as much passion to the classroom, where he loved to teach New Testament Christianity and challenge his students to live out their faith in consistent, costly discipleship.”

Blanchard Professor of Old Testament Dr. Richard Schultz also remembered Lake’s combination of ardent fandom and theological rigor.

“He was the only person I have met who had a written ‘Theology of Booing,’ which he gave me after I commented on his repeated verbal assaults on the referees during a home football game,” Schultz said. “It set forth and defended what he considered to be the appropriate Christian fan behavior toward the officials in various sports.”

After Lake’s retirement from Wheaton in 2000, he and Kristen moved to Tennessee, where he taught a Bible class at his church. He also founded King’s Partners, a ministry intended to provide affordable housing.

Survivors include Kristen Lake and the Lakes’ four children, including Rev. Dr. Stephen Lake ’91, who has taught in the philosophy department. Lake’s daughter-in-law is Clyde S. Kilby Professor of English Dr. Christina Bieber Lake.  

An obituary for Lake is available here. Services were held in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and a Celebration of Life service will be held on Saturday, April 1, at First Baptist Church of Wheaton, 1310 N. Main St. at 1 p.m.