Dr. Charles S. MacKenzie, past president of Grove City College who led the College through a landmark Supreme Court case, died Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. The accomplished theologian, pastor and author was 92.
A private funeral service is planned for Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. Friends and family will be able to attend a Celebration of Life service to be held later this spring on the campus of Grove City College.
“Dr. MacKenzie will be long remembered and revered for his vision and courage as a leader, his outstanding intellect as a scholar and teacher, and his extraordinary warmth and kindness as a pastor. He touched countless lives over the course of his remarkable career in the church and higher education,” Grove City College President Paul J. McNulty ’80 said.
“He was a transformational mentor to me when I was a student under his care and offered unwavering support in my current role. While I will greatly miss him, he is now in the presence of his Savior where he has most certainly longed to be,” McNulty added.
Dr. MacKenzie – “Sherry” to his friends – was Grove City College’s fifth president and led the private liberal arts school through its landmark 1984 Supreme Court case, Grove City College v. T.H. Bell, Secretary of Education. The case centered on the College’s desire to safeguard private and independent higher education from ever-expanding federal control.
Dr. MacKenzie summed up the battle for independence on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court: “Little Grove City College feels like David confronting Goliath as it challenges the government bureaucracy. It is fighting for everyone’s freedoms and not merely its own.”
“I am a better person for having known Sherry both as a student and during my early tenure on the Board,” David R. Rathburn ’79, chair of the College’s Board of Trustees, said. “President MacKenzie was one of His faithful servants – a principled leader who leaves an indelible mark on our history and the hearts and minds of generations of Grove City College students. May we find ourselves worthy of his extraordinary gifts in the years to come.”
Dr. MacKenzie was president of Grove City College from 1971 to 1991. Under his leadership, the College increased enrollment and faculty, guided the school through a curriculum change, and maintained its debt-free status while completing $38 million worth of campus improvements.
After stepping down, he served for a year as the College’s chancellor. In 1993, he moved to Florida after being named adviser to the president and professor of philosophy and theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, where he was a distinguished professor at the time of his death. In 2003, he was named a senior fellow at Excelsis, a center for cultural studies.
Dr. MacKenzie also taught at Princeton University, at the Manhattan School of Religion at Union Seminary in New York and served as a lecturer at Columbia University, Stanford University, the University of Strasbourg, Beijing University and in Vienna, Austria, and Budapest, Hungary. He also received a fellowship in philosophy from Princeton.
An accomplished theologian, Dr. MacKenzie was pastor at Avenel Presbyterian Church in Avenel, N.J.; at the historic Broadway Presbyterian Church in New York City; and at First Presbyterian Church in San Mateo, Calif. He was a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force.
A prolific writer, Dr. MacKenzie published works on René Descartes and Blaise Pascal. He had more than 60 articles and book reviews published in professional journals and is the author of the book “Trinity and Culture.”
Dr. MacKenzie was bestowed an honorary doctor of humane letters degree by Grove City College in 1997, and the College’s Alumni Association made him an honorary member in 1998. He received the Distinguished Service Award from the Alumni Association in 2015.
Other honors include the DeTocqueville Award for his contribution to freedom in 1998 and the Gordon College distinguished alumni award in 2003.
Dr. MacKenzie’s first wife, Florence, died in 1981; they married in 1964. The Florence E. MacKenzie Campus-Community Award is named in her honor and recognizes individuals from the College and the Grove City area who strive to establish strong town-gown relationships. In 1985, he married LaVonne “Vonnie” Rudolph Gaiser, a native of Grove City and a 1956 graduate of Grove City College whose first husband had also passed away. She survives.