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Margaret Bendroth

Rogue Scholar

The Groves of Academe

There were a few things that Ginny Brereton couldn't stand: preternaturally clean kitchen counters, rooms without bookcases, absolutely everything about Disney World, and long undisciplined sentences beginning with phrases like "there were." But those were incidental passions. Anyone who knew Ginny remembers her more for what she loved: her wonderful family, trips to hike in the French Alps or to climb in the neighborhood rock gym, music of every type, and books of every description.

Ginny's tragic death last September, the consequence of an early morning fire that destroyed her third-floor apartment, was an immeasurable loss to many people. To me she was a treasured intellectual companion and an irreplaceable friend. We laughed about something every time we talked to each other, no matter whether weeks or only hours had lapsed since our last conversation. For many years, as two independent scholars living mostly on the fringe of the academic establishment, we enjoyed the freedom to pursue ideas just because they were interesting. Together we edited a collection of essays, and wrote grant proposals, book reviews, and a scholarly article. We even dared each other to work through turgid books of postmodern theory, figuring it all out over saag paneer at Indian restaurants near our homes in Cambridge and Brookline, Massachusetts.

Of course, Ginny was not your average bookworm. I can't recall her ever going to a scholarly conference without an extra suitcase of books and a pile of Zagat guides. Many a time she and I ducked out of more serious matters to climb a mountain, find a walking tour, visit museums, search for offbeat restaurants, and of course browse bookshops.

But I'm not the only one who will miss her. Ginny is deservedly known as one of the top scholars of American evangelicalism, the world's leading expert on Bible schools many years before fundamentalists claimed their spot in the scholarly sunshine. Her first book originated as part of a Lilly-funded project, ...

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