Fresno Pacific University has lost a faculty member deeply rooted in the lives of his students and the life of the university.
Richard Unruh, Ph.D., 76, faculty emeritus in political science, died May 7, 2021. He and wife Pat (Friesen, CRED ’91, MA ’80, TC ’71, BA ’70) met at Fresno Pacific, started dating shortly before graduation in 1967 and married in 1968. She had a career as a teacher and administrator, mostly in Christian schools. They have a daughter, Elizabeth, a son-in-law and two grandchildren. Richard and Pat attended North Fresno Church.
Services include visiting hours from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Sunday, May 16, at Farewell Funeral Services, 660 W. Locust Ave. #101, Fresno. Family, close friends and colleagues are invited to a graveside ceremony at 10:00 a.m. Monday, May 17, at Belmont Memorial Park, 201 N. Teilman Ave., Fresno. A Celebration of Life service will be at 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 23, at 6:30 p.m. at North Fresno Church, 5724 N. Fresno St., Fresno.
A Seattle native, Richard was recruited to Fresno Pacific in 1964 by John Redekop, who was on his way to Fresno to start the school’s political science program and thought Richard should he his first student as well as his assistant. After John left in 1968, Richard joined the faculty, first as a way to do his alternative military service. He and Pat received $40 a month and $40 more for food from the Mennonite Brethren Christian Service Program, and Fresno Pacific provided an apartment several blocks from campus.
Along with Adonijah Pauls in the library and Luetta (Feil) Reimer in English, Richard was among the first Fresno Pacific graduates to join the faculty. When his service obligation ended in 1970, Pacific offered him and Pat a campus apartment if he’d serve as head men’s resident in addition to teaching full time.
By the time Richard retired in 2012, he had chaired his department, the Social Sciences Division and the Faculty Senate and earned an M.A. at the University of Washington and Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara. More important, his students have gone to law school, worked in the California Assembly and become teachers. Some have followed him as FPU faculty, including Rod Janzen (BA ’75), Ed.D., professor of history, and Ken Martens Friesen (BA ’84), Ph.D., professor of political science.
As a teacher, Richard encouraged debate and conversation. In one course he dedicated one session a week to current events; in another he required students to volunteer in a political campaign. “We were always tying what we were learning into contemporary issues,” Rod said in a 2012 Pacific magazine profile of Richard. “Everything I took from him demanded full participation by students.”
Both by his style of teaching and his attitude toward his subject, Richard inspired Ken. “He was concerned that politics be something that is in the public square. Not just for politicians, media and special interests,” he said in the same article.
A scholarship was set up in Richard’s name in 2013. Contribute at scholarships.fresno.edu/scholarship/dr-richard-s-unruh-endowed-political-science-scholarship