James Payne, a founding donor of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University who also was involved in the center’s initial curriculum development, died Dec. 21, 2017.
He passed away in his Richmond, Virginia, home just months after losing his wife of 60 years, Marian Yoder Payne, on Aug. 6, 2017.
A remembrance, written by his family and published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, shared that after his five children and nine grandchildren, “James was equally proud of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) at Eastern Mennonite University. He and Marian were founding donors and strong supporters of CJP. James often said it was the second best investment he ever made – after his children.”
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 12, at EMU’s Martin Chapel, 1181 Smith Avenue. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Payne Family Endowed Scholarship, which funds graduate studies for students at CJP.
Helping CJP’s light to shine around the world
The Paynes began their support of CJP in 1993, helping to fund the new center at their undergraduate alma mater. An educator, James was among those consulted by then-sociology professor Vernon Jantzi when he was tasked with developing CJP’s curriculum.
The couple helped to fund several initiatives and projects of CJP over the years, many of which were designed to share the story of empowered peacebuilders and peacebuilding initiatives around the world.
“My parents often said that ‘CJP would be a shining light for the world,’” remembers their daughter Barb Swan. “They felt their support for CJP was a way for them to leave a lasting and meaningful legacy.”
In 2013 and 2014, as CJP approached its 20th anniversary, the Paynes met with CJP Executive Director Daryl Byler to ask two questions: “How can CJP’s peacebuilding philosophy become more globally recognized? How can CJP expand its impact in the world?”
Among the projects they funded was a special double issue of Peacebuilder magazine in 2015 to explore the impact of 12 initiatives around the world that emerged from CJP’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute.
Teacher, builder, artist
James Payne was born Sept. 2, 1931 to Gladys (Roth) and A. Roy Payne in Pocomoke City, Maryland, but spent the majority of his childhood in Kishacoquillas Valley, Belleville, Pennsylvania.
He led a rich and varied life, working as a milk inspector, builder, minister, missionary, teacher and college professor. He spent two years in Ethiopia as a builder before marriage. After completing his bachelor’s degree in education at Eastern Mennonite University in 1958, he returned to Ethiopia with his pregnant wife and two children to be the administrator at the Emperor’s School for Blind Boys.
He returned to the U.S. to serve as head teacher for an elementary school in Roaring Springs, Pennsylvania, while serving as pastor of the Martinsburg Mennonite Church. After completing a doctorate in elementary education at Pennsylvania State University, he then taught for 20 years in the Elementary Education Department at Shippensburg State University.
Outside of his professional interests, Payne built cabins (three of them, all created without power tools), made hand-hooked rugs, gardened, read and wrote.
The couple has five children and nine grandchildren.