The Rev. Dr. Anil Solanki, with wife and co-translator Shaila, celebrate the completion of the Gujarati Bible, a project more than three decades in the making. Solanki is a honorary emeritus professor at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, where he taught biblical Hebrew for many years. (Photo by Jim Bishop)

In Memoriam: The Rev. Dr. Anil Solanki, former professor at Eastern Mennonite Seminary

Eastern Mennonite Seminary remembers with thanks to God for the life of The Rev. Dr. Anil Solanki, a longtime professor of language, who died at home on Sept. 29, 2021, in Harrisonburg.

His initial career was as a civil engineer in Gujarat, India. During that time, he experienced God’s call to ministry and enrolled in the Bachelor of Divinity program at Union Biblical Seminary (UBS) in 1966. He also completed a Master of Theology degree and then joined UBS as professor and dean. In 1976, he was ordained a minister by the Methodist Church. His post-graduate studies were completed at Ohio State University from 1978-1982 where he earned a Doctorate in Administration of Higher Education.

Solanki first came to the seminary as a visiting professor in 1988, and became part-time faculty in 1996.  He taught biblical Hebrew courses at the seminary.

In 1969, the Bible Society of India commissioned Solanki to begin work on a new translation of the Bible into his native language, Gujarati. Working with his wife, Shaila, he completed the 35-year project in 2004. Solanki, the leading Hebrew Bible scholar among Gujarati speakers, worked together with three colleagues representing several denominations in India.

The Rev. Dr. Anil Solanki speaks at a university with President Loren Swartzendruber. (EMU photo)

Upon publication of the new Gujarati Bible in 2004, Solanki was given special “honorary retiree” status at EMS. He continued to teach at EMS and EMU through 2014. He was well known among undergraduate students for his class on the Hebrew prophets and his emphasis on the biblical theme of justice. He also taught in the Adult Degree Completion Program. 

He pastored at Valley Central UCC and St. Luke’s County Line UCC, and more recently attended Ridgeway Mennonite Church.

Nancy Heisey, professor of Biblical studies, commented, “Anil wrote me a strong reference when I was applying to graduate school. As his student, I was so grateful for the solid grounding I received in Hebrew.”

“Anil was a man of profound and winsome faith,” wrote George R. Brunk III, emeritus professor. “I remember his chapel sermons as a spiritual as well as intellectual feast and challenge.”

In addition to his wife, Shaila Solanki, he is survived by his children, Elizabeth Solanki, Susmita Solanki, both of Harrisonburg, Madhur Solanki and wife, Maryam Solanki of Berryville, Va; siblings, Abhay Solanki, Ajay Solanki; and grandchildren, Rohan Solanki and Arman Solanki.

Information about a memorial service will be forthcoming. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made Eastern Mennonite University, The Arbor Day Foundation, or Farmers Footprint.

Online condolences to be shared with the Solanki family may be made below in the comment box or by visiting McMullen Funeral Home’s  webpage.

Discussion on “In Memoriam: The Rev. Dr. Anil Solanki, former professor at Eastern Mennonite Seminary

  1. In deep sorrow I mourn the death of my dear friend and mentor, Doctor and Reverend Anil Solanki.
    In 2004, I came to Harrisonburg from a missionary assignment in Tanzania, to enroll as a graduate student at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) at EMU. I was introduced to the Solanki family by the Whites the family I stayed with, and their neighbors at the time. There was laid the foundation of a lasting friendship. Of Indian origin, I had a natural bond with Anil and Shaila.
    Anil supported me with great love and respect. He proudly introduced me and my friend, and wife-to-be, Kirstin, to his congregation at St. Luke’s County Line UCC. A resource-poor graduate student, I was welcomed to Anil’s home, nourished physically and spiritually. Anil encouraged me and gave me strength at times when my mental energy was ebbing during my graduate stidies. He celebrated with me when I graduated from CJP, tenderly nurtured me when I underwent a surgical procedure and with Shaila blessed Kirstin and I when we married.
    Anil was aware of every major juncture of my life, every transition. When Kirstin and I returned to the USA in 2020 from several years of international service, uncertain as to how we would reintegrate into the US culture, Anil encouraged and advised us. He and Shaila prayed for us unceasingly. Whenever I called to update him, even during his medical challenges, Anil had words of encouragement and comfort.
    Anil, you have transitioned from this world, dear friend and spiritual father. I am a better person for having known you. You will be ever-present in my heart, as spiritual companion and mentor.
    In tribute to Anil, I offer a poem from Rabindranath Tagore, whose works we treasured:

    O thou the last fulfilment of life,
    Death, my death, come and whisper to me!

    Day after day I have kept watch for thee;
    for thee have I borne the joys and pangs of life.

    All that I am, that I have, that I hope and all my love
    have ever flowed towards thee in depth of secrecy.

    One final glance from thine eyes
    and my life will be ever thine own.

    The flowers have been woven
    and the garland is ready for the bridegroom.

    After the wedding the bride shall leave her home
    and meet her lord alone in the solitude of night.

  2. My sincere condolences and prayers for the grieving family and also the friends and faculty members for the loss of Dr. Anil Solanky. I don’t know him personally I remember that once I have heard him bringing God’s word passionately. Indeed he was a great man of God and also an intellectual scholar in Biblucal Hebrew knowledge. He will be remembered for ever.

  3. I was a mediocre Hebrew student, but I remember the grace and delight of teaching that was the person of Dr. Solanky. My second semester course of Hebrew was pure delight.

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