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ACU Remembers: Dr. Tony Ash

By on December 8, 2017 in ACU Remembers, Alumni News with 27 Comments

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Dr. Tony Ash
Dr. Tony Ash

Dr. Anthony Lee “Tony” Ash, an Abilene Christian University theology professor whose lectures on C.S. Lewis and biblical teachings brought Christianity to life for thousands of students, died Dec. 6, 2017, in Abilene at age 86.

He was born Oct. 29, 1931, in Lincoln, Nebraska, and graduated from Eugene (Oregon) High School in 1949. Ash earned an Associate in Arts degree at Florida Christian College in 1954, and married Barbara Bailey a year later. He earned an M.A. in Old Testament from ACU in 1959, and a Ph.D. degree in church history from the University of Southern California in 1966.

For nearly 50 years, Ash researched, read, studied, lectured and wrote about noted theologian C.S. “Jack” Lewis and his essays, lectures and books. A Bible professor for more than 40 years at ACU, he also was the author of more than a dozen books. He recently completed Walking With C.S. Lewis, a 10-part video series.

“Tony was such a wonderful storyteller,” said David Swearingen, a longtime friend and former vice president of corporate communications with Johnson & Johnson. “His solid Christian faith and his passion for C.S. Lewis’ works energized him in the classroom. He could quote long passages without missing a word. In particular, he loved The Chronicles of Narnia and when he told those stories his face lit up with expressions of excitement, delight, consternation and fear.”

Ash taught Bible at ACU from 1962-72 before his appointment as a professor at Pepperdine University and chair of its Religion Division from 1972-75. He taught at the Austin (Texas) Graduate School of Theology from 1975-85 before returning to ACU. After teaching, writing, lecturing and preaching for more than 60 years around the world, he retired in 2015 as professor emeritus of Bible, missions and ministry.

“He was a legend in his own time, as a beloved Bible professor, academic and friend to countless people, and especially to his students,” said ACU chancellor Dr. Royce Money (’64). Tony and his wife, Barbara, have many spiritual children, as their lives enveloped several generations of students at Abilene Christian and at Pepperdine University. Tony’s love for God’s Word and his extraordinary ability to communicate it through teaching, preaching and writing will long be remembered by all whose lives he touched.”

Dr. Ian Fair (’68), former dean of ACU’s College of Biblical Studies, recalled a time when Ash walked unannounced into a meeting Fair was having with an alumni couple and their daughter, a prospective student.

Tony Ash“I was trying to explain the academic advantage of attending ACU. Tony immediately recognized the couple, having officiated at their wedding more than 20 years ago,” Fair said. “He called them by name, mentioning the wife’s maiden name and their grades in his class. They were stunned. I turned to their daughter and asked, ‘What would it be like to attend a university where in 20-plus years your professor would remember your maiden name and your grade in his class?’ She decided to enroll that day.”

Aside from his lifelong commitment to students and higher education, Ash was an avid outdoorsman. He ran 13 marathons, including the New York City Marathon, and hiked the Appalachian Trail, as well as trails in Oregon, England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Ash was an active member of Abilene’s University Church of Christ. Earlier, he was a pulpit minister in Georgia and California and Texas, including five Church of Christ congregations in Abilene: Central, University, South 11th and Willis, Minter Lane and Highway 36.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Jesse and Virginia (Coleman) Ash. Among survivors are Barbara, his wife of 62 years; sisters Jane Byrd, Judy Barr, Susan Anderson, Lynn Ash and Cathy Hannaford, and their children and grandchildren.

A short memorial service will be held at noon on Monday, Dec. 11, in ACU’s Chapel on the Hill. In lieu of flowers, the family prefers contributions to the Siburt Institute at ACU (online at acu.edu/giveonline or mailed to Gift Records, ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132).

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Ron Hadfield

About the Author

About the Author: Ron Hadfield is editor of ACU Today magazine and assistant vice president for university communication at Abilene Christian, where he began work in 1983 overseeing Creative Services at his alma mater.
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  1. What a wonderful tribute to an amazing man of God, and his endeavor to bring Christ to life through his love of the Bible, C.A. Lewis, and the Chronicles of Narnia. I literally stumbled upon Professor Ash through my subscription with PureFlix Christian movies. I’ve read a few of C.S. Lewis’s books, and when I saw this series I was very excited to have such an in-depth study on an amazing Christian author’s life. I’ve nearly finished the series teaching of Professor at Ash, and have an even more profound love, excitement, and admiration of C.S. Lewis’s life and work, and the commitment of Dr. Tony Ash to further enhance and help hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – gain a deeper insight into this incredible work of faith.

  2. I was a biblical studies student of Tony Ash’s at the Biblical Institute for Christian Studies at University Ave Church of Christ from 1978 to 1982.

    I can remember sitting in an upper room my room mate, Tony and me having a class on his 2nd favorite book of the bible.

    The book of Luke. (The chronicles of Narnia are his first fav book of the bible)

    We were learning greek so we could nail a scene. He taught the bible like it was a resource to be used as material to make a movie of your life. He made you create SKITS. Jesus meets the woman at the well. And we had to imagine the voice and act out. Me being the WOMAN once in class cuz it was only Ed and Me and he got to be Jesus. In any case, it was a hot spring day.

    I looked over and Tony had leaned back in his seat and was snoring. The professor fell asleep in class. I noticed my room mate Ed put his head down looked up saw Tony asleep and then he laid it down and went to sleep again.

    Needless to say, I will never forget Tony Ash he instilled in me a love for Narnia, Story telling and Luke as well as Nehimiah.

    As a result I took his boost into life and together with Ed we started a church in Windsor CT. Then launched a campaign to start now 4 orphanages and schools in Haiti. Hope For Haiti’s Children.

    While in Haiti I had the opportunity to preach on the national radio to 8 million people. I play-acted the scene of Jesus and the Woman at the Well. I did this in French which I had to learn.

    Children are alive and living well now in Haiti after all these years. The stories that Tony told and made us tell still are in the hearts of a nation.

    Kudos Tony.
    He also told me that agape was God’s love.
    Agape was not a feeling it is a decision.

    Decide to Love.
    #AgapeToday

  3. Donita Mallard, San Antonio, Texas says:

    I’m truly saddened by this article because I’ve recently fallen in love with C.S. Lewis and in doing so, I spent hours with Prof. Ash while watching his video series, “Walking with C.S. Lewis.” I also fell in love with Prof. Ash and his soft and caring voice, his obvious love of the Lord, and his ability to calm me in anxious times just by watching this series. There are very few people a person will meet in his or her life who touch us in a deep spiritual way. There have been only two in mine that I met in person. Now, I can say three, although I didn’t get to meet Prof. Ash in person. I’m saddened by that. But also very grateful. He touched my life after his death. We all can only hope to do the same for someone once we ourselves are gone from this life.

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