CANTON – In her own words, the Rev. Kathleen Buckley summed up her work as St. Lawrence University’s chaplain. She sought to minister with three primary goals: “inviting inquiry, fostering wholeness and teaching respect for all life.”
After serving as the university’s chaplain for nearly two decades, the Rev. Buckley died late Sunday night. A memorial service in the university’s Gunnison Memorial Chapel will be held at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 2.
SLU has created a memorial website to collect tributes and reflections, and a fund has been established to benefit students, programs related to Gunnison Memorial Chapel and the university chaplain.
In a letter addressed to Laurentian Friends, SLU President William L. Fox announced the Rev. Buckley’s passing and shared pieces of her life and SLU work with the campus and Canton communities.
“She was a pillar by every measure, one to lean on, one to look up to, and one to remember in despair,” President Fox wrote in the letter posted to SLU’s website Monday.
Before she arrived in Canton in July 2001, the Rev. Buckley served as Protestant chaplain at Union College, Schenectady, and chaplain at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs.
A member of the United Church of Christ (Congregationalists), the Rev. Buckley was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church in 1986, after having earned her Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1981.
In addition to her worship service and general ministry duties at SLU, the Rev. Buckley taught workshops on practical communications skills and spoke to community groups and congregations about theology and sexuality.
Just months after she began her ministry at SLU, 9/11 devastated the nation.
“It was Kathleen’s leadership in a difficult day, even years later, that gathered our community in grief and remembrance,” President Fox wrote. “She used the offices of the chaplaincy and the chapel itself to comfort so many Laurentians in a moment of devastating confusion and loss.”
That leadership and kindness extended throughout her time at the university, hosting international students at her home every Thanksgiving and encouraging students to explore their values through her seminars, “Build Your Own Beliefs.”
Students, alumni and former university staff members left words of remembrance on the Rev. Buckley’s memorial website.
“To say that I am grateful for Kathleen Buckley’s presence on campus is quite the understatement,” wrote Natalie Pontikes, class of 2020. “Not only did Kathleen open her office doors to students in need, but she helped create an environment in the chapel that allowed it to truly feel like a safe space.”
And William Waller, class of 2022, wrote that his favorite memory was having his first Thanksgiving meal with the Rev. Buckley and his fellow international students.
“I will miss your bright presence and our conversations,” Mr. Waller wrote. “Rest in peace, Kathleen.”