For 43 years, Roger Dudley, photographed here in 2011, was director of the Institute of Church History at the Seventh-day Theological Seminary at Andrews University. [Photo credit: Austin Ho] 

October 3, 2023

Roger Dudley, Research Pioneer, Passes to His Rest

Roger L. Dudley, who for 40 years conducted groundbreaking human-subject research in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, passed away on September 15, 2023, in Centerville, Ohio. He was 92.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Cheryl Zwart. Dudley had moved to Centerville to be near Cheryl in 2020 but he had lived in Berrien Springs, Michigan for the past 46 years.  

Petr Cincala succeeded Dudley as director of the Institute of Church Ministry and described his mentor as “a very appreciative, kind person, devoted to the Lord and work for the church.” As Dudley’s former graduate assistant for many years, Cincala recalled their careful research centering on youth, church growth, pastoral well-being, as Dudley “thought about each detail and approached his potential respondents kindly, with care and respect while being a great scholar and academician.” Dudley would direct the Institute of Church Ministry until age 82. 

One seminal study Dudley oversaw followed a sample of young people from Adventist families from 15 or 16 years of age until they turned 25 or 26, which led to the discovery that about half were no longer regularly participating in an Adventist congregation, although a larger proportion still identified themselves as Adventist.  

Monte Sahlin, former research officer for the North American Division, noted that Dudley’s heart has always been for the youth. In a festschrift honoring the pioneering researcher in 2018, Sahlin wrote that the ten-year longitudinal study conducted by Dudley and the resulting three books were no accident. “He started his career as a Bible teacher in an Adventist secondary school and later, as a youth worker. His heart has always been with our youth and the wisdom in these volumes continues to be relevant today.” 

Several of Dudley’s books and articles over the years were written for parents and others who work with children and youth. His contribution to the relatively narrow, specialized field of church growth represents only a small portion of his total output and it is in this area Sahlin maintains Dudley may have the most impact. “It may have a wider impact than some of his other work, reaching even beyond the Adventist denomination to inform researchers and leaders in other faith communities. It remains fundamentally important to the Remnant Church.” 


Early Life 

Roger Louis Dudley was born Sept. 8, 1931, in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Union Springs Academy in New York State in 1949 and was awarded a B.A. in religion and history from Columbia Union College in Tacoma Park, Maryland (now Washington Adventist University) four years later. He has received two degrees from Andrews University—M.A. in Education in 1959 and Ed.D in Counseling and Educational Psychology in 1977. His dissertation was entitled: “Selected Variables related to Alienation from Religion as Perceived by Students Attending Seventh-day Adventist Academies in the United States.” 

Dudley served as a teacher, school principal, pastor, youth ministries director, and superintendent of education in several eastern states. From 1971-1973 he was principal of Mount Vernon Academy in Ohio. He was also Bible teacher and director of counseling and guidance services at Thunderbird Academy in Scottsdale, Arizona and Georgia-Cumberland Academy in Calhoun, Georgia. He joined the Andrews University Seminary faculty in January 1980. 

Dudley served as the director of the Institute of Church Ministry and emeritus professor of Christian Ministry at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary of Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan. Before officially retiring in 2000, he taught courses in Research Methods, Marriage and Family, Youth Ministry, Church Leadership, Pastoral Counseling, Religious Education, and Religion and Society. He continued on a half-time basis as director of the Institute of Church Ministry until 2013.  


Prolific Author 

He is the author, co-author, or editor of sixteen books, including: Why Teenagers Reject Religion and What to Do about It; Married and Glad of It; The Sure Way to a Happy Marriage; When Teenagers Cry Help: How to Counsel Effectively; Adventures in Church Growth: A Resource Guide for Introductory Statistics; Passing on the Torch: How to Convey Religious Values to Young People; The World Love it or Leave It?; The World of The Adventist Teenager; Plant a Church, Reap a Harvest; Valuegenesis: Faith in the Balance; Citizens of Two Worlds: Religion and Politics among American Seventh-day Adventists; Issues: The Seventh-day Adventist Church and Certain Private Ministries; Why Our Teenagers Leave the Church; Maximum Marriage; The Complex Religion of Teens; Ministering with Millennials 

In addition, he has had over 170 articles published in scholarly, professional or general readership journals: has directed the preparation of more than 75 unpublished research studies and has presented 58 papers at professional meetings. 

Dudley was a member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and of the Religious Research Association and has presented papers at 29 annual joint meetings of the societies. 

He was vice president for Publications of the Association of Adventist Family Professionals for five years. He served as a board member of the Andrews University Center for College Faith and also served as the liaison with the University Press and the General Conference Department of Education for the publication of its integration of faith and learning book series. He served as an invited member of the North American Division Executive Committee for 25 years. Dudley was chosen as a recipient of the Annual Research/Creative Activity Award by Andrews University in 1993, 1995, and 2000. He served as President of the Andrews University chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, the National Honor Society for interdisciplinary scholarship for the 1999-2000 school year. In August of 2008, Andrews University awarded him with the J.N. Andrews Medallion for Lifetime service to Adventist education. In 2018 he was presented with a Festschrift written by 24 scholars to honor his 40 years as a pioneer of Seventh-day Adventist Human Subject Research. For more that 12 years he served as a volunteer, answering questions for the web ministry of the Voice of Prophecy. 


Longtime Partnership 

Dudley was married for 68 years to the former Margaret (Peggy) Goronzy, who preceded him in death. The Dudleys often worked together in conducting Maximum Marriage Seminars and grow groups in giving presentations and holding workshops on various areas of family living and interpersonal relationships. They also did research and published various articles and two books together. For this work they were presented the Arthur and Maud Spaulding Award for Distinguished Service in Family Ministries by the General Conference in 1994, the Outstanding Research/Publication Award by the Michigan College Personnel Association in 1995, and the Distinguished Service Award by the Family Ministries Department of the North American Division in 1999 and in 2018. Their favorite recreational activity was travel to visit new and exciting places. This was often done as part of their work responsibilities, but many trips were personal vacations. They have been to all seven continents, including Antarctica twice, and sixty-one different countries. 

Roger Dudley was married for 68 years to the former Margaret (Peggy) Goronzy, who preceded him in death. [photo credit: Jean-Ires Michel]
Roger Dudley was married for 68 years to the former Margaret (Peggy) Goronzy, who preceded him in death. [photo credit: Jean-Ires Michel]

In addition to his wife, he is preceded in death his parents, George Dudley Sr. and Hazel Donachy Dudley, his brother, George Dudley Jr. He is survived by a daughter, Cheryl (Hans) Zwart, a grandson Chad Cotta, and a great grandson Oliver Cotta, three nieces, Pat Dudley Agrillo, Lynne Dudley Klimchok, and Heidi Dudley. He also had an adopted Chinese daughter, WenGuo (Dan) Edmans. 

The Dudleys will have a joint memorial celebration on Saturday, October 21 at 4 p.m. in the Pioneer Memorial Church, Berrien Springs, Michigan.  

If you would like to send a card of sympathy or a gift in memoriam, please send it to Cheryl Zwart at 1116 Club View Drive Centerville, Ohio, 45458. 

Compiled by Debbie Michel