Gene Harold Outka

gene outka

February 24, 1937 ~ May 1, 2023

Born in: Sioux Falls, SD
Resided in: Cromwell, CT

The family of Gene Harold Outka, 86, are deeply saddened to report that he passed away on Monday, May 1, 2023. His death came peacefully after a long illness.

Gene was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on February 24, 1937, the beloved son of the late Harold Irvin and Gertrude Anna Elliott Outka. From adolescence, his deep religious convictions and keen intellect guided him to a life dedicated to Christian thought and practice. His early interest in the ministry led him to speech and debate in high school, and as a senior he won the 1955 National Original Oratory Contest, an early indication of the charismatic and engaging teacher he would become.

Gene left an indelible mark in academia as an author, teacher, mentor, and leader, and was a central influence in Christian ethics throughout his career. He received his B.A. in Sociology from the University of Redlands in 1959, his B.D. from Yale Divinity School in 1962, his M.A. from Yale University in 1964, and his Ph.D from Yale University in 1967. He taught in the Department of Religion at Princeton University for ten years before joining the Yale faculty in 1975, where he served as the Timothy Dwight Professor of Philosophy and Christian Ethics with a joint appointment at the Department of Religious Studies and the Divinity School. He wrote Agape: An Ethical Analysis, and co-edited and contributed to Norm and Context in Christian Ethics (with Paul Ramsey) and Religion and Morality and Prospects for a Common Morality (both with John P. Reeder, Jr.). Work on a forthcoming volume, God and the Moral Life: Conversations in the Augustinian Tradition, was also nearing completion. He lectured throughout the US and abroad, including at Oxford, Cambridge, and universities in Norway, Sweden, Hong Kong, and elsewhere. He was a leader in his field, serving as President of the Society of Christian Ethics and as co-convener of the New Haven Theological Discussion Group with Christopher Morse. In 2016, leading scholars in his field came together to publish a volume Love and Christian Ethics to honor his work and its importance.

He is survived by his wife, Ann; children, Paul (Uma), Elizabeth (Trip Pollard), and Jacqueline (Abuzer Rafey); grandchildren, Katherine and Thomas Pollard and Isaac and Juliet Outka; stepchildren, Tony Whall (Holly), Amy Joyce (Bob), Jennifer Whall (Scott Nelson), and Kate Whall; former wife, Susan Owen; sister-in-law, Kay Outka; extended family, colleagues, friends, and students throughout the world. He was predeceased by his brother, Darryll Outka; and first wife, Carole DeVore.

Gene sometimes quoted Keats, “I have fears that I may cease to be/Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,” yet all the gleanings that came before have left a lasting imprint in the minds of all who knew him both distantly and well. He was a beloved husband and father with a clear perspective, dry sense of humor, and warm congeniality. He will be profoundly missed.

A private burial will be held at Grove Street Cemetery. A public memorial celebration will be held in the fall at the Yale Divinity School. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or the Yale Divinity School. Beecher & Bennett Funeral Home, 2300 Whitney Avenue, Hamden was in care of arrangements.

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  1. Gene was a remarkable scholar with whom I became acquainted through Christopher Morse and later as a junior member of the New Haven Theological Discussion Group (NHTGD) to which Gene was so devoted. To meet with Gene and Christopher over lunch following our Saturday morning sessions was always a customary delight, and often joined by Gene’s wife Susan and their lovely daughter, Jacqueline. To them and to all the other members of Gene’s family, may God’s grace sustain you in this time of loss.

  2. What a treasure he was! Now I begin to get a glimmer into why Paul, Uma, Isaac, and Juliet Outka exude such high moral character and intellectual curiosity. Please accept my deepest condolences for your loss.

  3. Dear Professor Outka:
    I was sorry to hear about his death. I knew him when he was a professor at Yale and he autographed his book,Agape. Please extend my deepest sympathies to his family. I look forward to attending his service in the fall. Sincerely, Sheila A. Cooper


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