Dear Laurentian Friends,
I must bear hard news and also tell it with a tear. The Reverend Kathleen Buckley, University Chaplain, died late Sunday night, January 12, in the everlasting arms of love and gentleness. Cared for in the home of her partner in calling, Shaun Whitehead, also in company with the immense support of nearby friends, Kathleen made every moment of the past four months count as living in full. She told Lynn and me only a few weeks ago that she was going to die the way she lived. She never ceased teaching and doing kindness in every breath and step.
Kathleen came to St. Lawrence in July 2001 having served the campus communities of Union College and Skidmore College for a few years each. Not long after the fall semester opened that year, the horrific deadly events of September 11 occurred. It was Kathleen’s leadership in a difficult day, even years later, that gathered our community in grief and remembrance. She used the offices of the chaplaincy and the chapel itself to comfort so many Laurentians in a moment of devastating confusion and loss.
Her ministry at St. Lawrence rose out of tribulation. And yet, she served our community in the dignity of countless public ceremonies, such as welcoming new students, blessing the senior class at Commencement, and arranging the annual Candlelight Service at the end of the fall term. In our shared moments of joy and sadness, Kathleen was the vital presence of a calming, uplifting effect felt by us all.
From the ancient song book I picture her understanding the essential charge of ministry: “When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars.” She was a pillar by every measure, one to lean on, one to look up to, and one to remember in despair. Kathleen was especially gifted and skillful in caring for people as individuals, people in small groups, and in particular communities of experience. Her work as a teacher in the study of human relationships was expressed in the practice of mediation, restoration, and healing. Her affection for international students was evident every Thanksgiving when dozens would shuttle out to her home in the woods for a feast, much of it coming from Kathleen’s impressive garden.
Kathleen helped students discover a bibliography and vocabulary for conversation about human spiritual needs and questions. Her series of seminars called “Build Your Own Beliefs” have given students the caring, accepting, and secure occasion to explore their values and hopes. Her compassion for just one person in “little unremembered acts of kindness” was multiplied times and lives past counting. The cutting boards and maple leaf pendants created from her wood shop are treasured objects, truly from the hand of an artist, which visibly spoke, “whatever you like to do, do it with excellence, and pass it on for others to enjoy.”
St. Lawrence University will gather in Gunnison Memorial Chapel to remember and celebrate the life and purpose of Kathleen Buckley on Sunday, February 2, at 1:00 p.m. Until then, we have created our Memorial web site for your tributes and reflections: https://www.stlawu.edu/president/memory-kathleen-buckley
A memorial fund is being established at the University in honor of Kathleen. The fund will benefit students, programs surrounding Gunnison Memorial Chapel and the University Chaplain. Gifts for this fund can be made at the following link: https://alumni.stlawu.edu/the-buckley-fund or mailed to St. Lawrence earmarked for the Buckley Fund: University Advancement, 23 Romoda Drive, Canton, NY 13617.