Terry Dean Beitzel, director of the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence at James Madison University, studied and taught at EMU's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. (Courtesy of James Madison University)

In Memoriam: Terry Dean Beitzel

EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding mourns the passing of Terry Dean Beitzel, professor in the Justice Studies Department at James Madison University and director of the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence since 2014. Beitzel died Friday, January 29, 2021, at Sentara RMH Medical Center. 

Beitzel studied at CJP from 2001-02 before earning his doctorate at George Mason University. He was a teaching assistant in a theory class and taught courses at CJP, including with the Summer Peacebuilding Institute, while working on his doctorate. In 2007, he joined the faculty at JMU but maintained close connections with CJP faculty and students.

“Few private individuals live a life that evokes a global outpouring of sorrow when they leave us,” said CJP Executive Director Jayne Docherty. “As word spread over the weekend, we received phone calls and emails from the many CJP graduates he knew and mentored. In addition to his prolific career accomplishments, we remember Terry as a warm, funny, compassionate, and kind human being who didn’t just talk about peace but embodied it. We send our deepest condolences to his wife, Sylvia, and his daughter, Myra.”

Plans for a service and for other memorial opportunities will be announced at a later date. We will update this article with information as it becomes available. 

Share your memories of Terry Beitzel in the comment box below. All messages will be shared with his family. 

Read the full obituary.


Beitzel was known for encouraging his students “to ask questions, to accept responsibility for their learning, and to become involved in the JMU, Harrisonburg, and Rockingham County communities.”

In that spirit and in his scholarship, he often intersected with CJP alumni and friends. He was widely published and presented regularly at conferences. Among his endeavors were cross-cultural community building in Guinea, India, Kenya, and Kosovo; service as a practitioner for the Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation with the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience; and his establishment of the International Journal on Responsibility.

Beitzel’s role at the Gandhi Center enabled collaboration with Shenandoah Valley community members and others across the globe, including alumni and others in the peacebuilding field with ties to CJP. He launched partnerships with Valley Justice Coalition, New Bridges Immigration Center, Fairfield Mediation Center, and Many Voices of Harrisonburg.

Under Beitzel’s leadership, the Gandhi Center recognized the work of Anabaptist peacebuilders. 

In 2015, the center honored Pax, a program of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). About 60 former PAX members, including organization co-founder and former leader Cal Redekop, came to the May ceremony. The organization was created in response to the reinstatement of the military draft in the United States after the start of the Korean War. From 1951-1976, more than 1,200 Mennonites, Quakers, Brethren and other conscientious objectors, who performed alternative service in 40 countries. 

In 2013, the center honored Howard Zehr as one of two recipients of the Community Service Award.

Join the Discussion on “In Memoriam: Terry Dean Beitzel

  1. Since I’m still processing this news and don’t know how this happened, it is certainly a great loss. Terry was very humble and kind person with very interesting and accommodating personality. It’s a great loss to his family which I cannot even imagine. Also, his work will be missed in the field of non-violence. May his soul Rest In Peace. Prayers.

  2. Gerade eben habe ich es von meinem Bruder erfahren!
    Es tut mir so leid und ich bin traurig…

    Mein Beileid allen Angehörigen

    Wir wollten uns immer mal wieder treffen und er wollte mir auch seine Familie vorstellen und ich ihm meine Frau!
    Ich bin sprachlos…

    Ich durfte Terry damals in Boston kennenlernen und wir freundeten uns an.
    Auch in Deutschland 🇩🇪 besuchte er uns und wir hatten viel Spaß und fuhren auch nach Italien an den Lago Maggiore zusammen.
    Danke Terry für die tollen Momente damals, ich werde Diese und Dich nie vergessen.

    Es ist so schade, er wird fehlen…

    Ich wünsche der Familie Kraft und bin in Gedanken bei Euch!

    Bleibt alle Gesund und passt gut auf Euch auf!

    Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

  3. My deepest condolences to his bereaved family members. I experienced his erudite Gandhian scholarship while coediting two commemorative books on Mahatma Gandhi and during his recent visit to India to deliver Keynote at International Symposium organised by RTM Nagpur University. I am deeply saddened by the sudden demise of Prof. Terry Beitzel. Now the two books authored by sixty one Gandhian scholars will be real tribute to him. He had planned one online international symposium around the book proposed book release. The ‘Foreword ‘of the books is written by renowned Gandhian scholar and philosopher Prof. Lord Bhikhu Parekh and ‘Preface ‘is written by Mr. Tushar Gandhi, great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. We all contributors of the book and publisher pay our tribute to him May God bless his soul.

  4. Accepting Terry’s death is very hard and painful. I very much appreciate hearing the stories and insights about Terry from persons outside our home community here in Western Maryland. As a cousin who watched Terry grow up, I have been in awe of his remarkable life story. Terry is from a large extended family, including his mother Naomi and brother Gary and he will be greatly missed for many many reasons.

  5. Terry was a special friend. He had sought me out when he began to study at EMU after having studied at several other universities. His brilliant mind was continually exploring ideas. Like many of us, he was seeking ideas from others to reconcile his Anabaptist roots with his goal of doing justice and walking humbly with God. He was not wanting easy answers but ways to practice justice in whatever context one may find themselves. Terry was one of a small number of friends I have had in my life that stimulated my mind far beyond my own intellectual compacity. I will miss his conversations at the Park View Mennonite Church coffee hour. Rest in peace, my friend.

  6. I am reading only now about Terry’s passing. What a shock, I am deeply, deeply saddened. I was one of those persons mentored by Terry during a class on Theory he co-taught with Jayne Daugherty. He was ALWAYS very supporting, encouraging, and devoted time to help me sort through my thoughts, but not only me, he was kind and gentle with EVERYBODY. And he was humble and smart. I have thought of him through the years and followed with joy the developments of his marriage and his fatherhood and the wonderful initiatives he helped create. May we all learn from his example. What a loss, what a loss of a very special person, for all of us in the peacebuilding community and in the world. My heart and prayers go to his wife and daughter.

  7. Terry, you have offered the world you insights, humor and honesty. You have given all of us your friendship and deep care. It is difficult to “let go of you” and your physical presence, but we know you are with us because we ‘remember’ you. Somehow you are part of us and that won’t go away. Thank you for your scholarship which is also a reflection of your personality and values–those values of the importance of right-relationships, justice and peace for and across all humanity. Be well, my friend!

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