Login to Claremont COURIER

Reverend F. Thomas Trotter

University president, author, minister, professor

The Reverend F. Thomas Trotter died peacefully Friday, July 26 at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, surrounded by his wife Gania Demaree Trotter and other members of his family. He was 93 years of age.

As a minister, professor, administrator and visionary, Reverend Trotter’s decades of service to the United Methodist Church continue to impact and inspire globally. 

He was founding pastor of Montclair Methodist Church from 1956 to 1959. At the age of 32, he became dean of the School of Theology at Claremont, where he served from 1959 to 1973, and recruited a pantheon of international scholars to its faculty during his tenure there before moving on to other administrative positions for the United Methodist Church.

He returned to what was then called the Claremont School of Theology to serve as its interim president from 1999 to 2000, and was a member of its board of trustees for many years. 

Born in Los Angeles to Frederick B. and Hazel T. Trotter, he was a leader in church and school activities throughout his youth. A World War II veteran, he served in the Army Air Corps in the China-Burma Theater with the Army Airways Communications System as a cryptographer from 1944 to 1946.

After the war he earned an AB degree from Occidental College in Los Angeles, and STB and PhD degrees from Boston University. His academic research areas were in the history of Christianity, 19th century religious thought, religion and the arts, and the philosophy of religion.

He was the author of four books: Jesus and the Historian; Loving God with One’s Mind; Politics, Morality and Higher Education; and God is With Us; as well as many scholarly articles. He wrote a weekly column in the Nashville Banner and was a columnist for the Anchorage Times. 

While general secretary of the United Methodist Church’s Board of Higher Education and Ministry in Nashville from 1973 to 1987, Reverend Trotter oversaw 124 church-related universities, colleges and seminaries. He initiated a number of national programs for United Methodist colleges and universities, and in 1984 he was a founder of Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe—the first church related university in Africa. 

After his distinguished service at the Board of Higher Education and Ministry, he became president of Alaska Pacific University, where he served from 1987 to 1994, overseeing several capital campaigns. After completing his term as interim president at Claremont School of Theology in 2000, he officially retired, but continued to serve as a consultant and mentor for individuals and organizations. 

In addition to his work duties, Reverend Trotter enjoyed music and sang in choirs for most of his life. He was also a talented artist who helped found a humor magazine at Occidental College. His cartoons, paintings and sculptures remain treasured by friends and family. 

He was preceded in death by his daughter, Paula Anne Trotter.

He is survived by his spouse, Gania Demaree Trotter; his brother and sister, Rev. Mark Trotter and Martha Jagger; his daughters, Prof. Ruth Elizabeth Trotter (Col. Brett Watterson), Tania Trotter Batson (Rev. Greg Batson) and Prof. Mary Kathleen Trotter (Robert Kaufman); his grandchildren, Thomas, Daniel and Wesley Batson; and a loving circle of other family and friends.

A memorial celebration of Reverend Trotter’s life has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, August 31 at Claremont United Methodist Church, 211 W. Foothill Blvd., Claremont.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Claremont School of Theology at cst.edu/giving, or by check to Claremont School of Theology, Office of Advancement, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711, with “F. Thomas Trotter Scholarship” in the memo line.

Donations may also be made to Alaska Pacific University at alaskapacific.edu/ donate, or by check to Alaska Pacific University, Attn: Office of Advancement and Sponsored Programs, 4101 University Dr., Anchorage, AK 99508; or The Africa University Development Office at support-africauniversity.org, or by check to The Africa University Development Office, P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, TN 32703.