A Brief Biography of Gurdon Brewster

Gurdon Brewster, born in 1937, has pursued a double calling during his life: being a university chaplain and also being a sculptor.

His interest in sculpture began in high school and continued during his college years at Haverford College. Studying sculpture throughout college, he donated a bronze bust of one of his favorite teachers, which remains on display in the music building. While attending Union Theological Seminary in New York, he studied with various individuals and institutions, including the Art Students’ League where he worked briefly with Jose de Creeft. During his senior year, he made a portrait bust of Reinhold Niebuhr, which is displayed in the Union Seminary library.my family full size

While at seminary, in 1961, he was invited by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to be an assistant minister during the summer, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. While there he lived with Martin Luther King Sr. and worked in the church with its youth group and youth groups from around the city. He returned again in 1966 as an assistant for the summer with his family, his wife, Martha, and two daughters. He has written about his experiences in a memoir entitled, No Turning Back.

After graduating from seminary in 1962, he and his wife went to Madras, India, for two years on an experimental church program. While at Madras Christian College, he taught American history, directed a program for students to work as volunteers in surrounding villages and he developed an art department for the college.

Upon returning from India, he began his work as the Episcopal Chaplain at Cornell University, where he stayed for 35 years. During those years he sponsored 35 people for ordination. He also succeeded in raising an endowment that will permanently support the chaplaincy for the future.

Gurdon continued his sculpture during those years. In the 1970’s and 80’s he created a serries of sculptures inspired by his experience in India. More recently, he has focused on work the inspiration for which comes from his spiritual life and his concern for justice and compassion.

In 1999,he retired from Cornell as University Chaplain, Emeritus. This gave him the opportunity to focus on his sculpture. He has had two one-person shows, in 2001 and 2004, at the State of the Art Gallery in Ithaca, NY. He has sculptures in collections around the country. When the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church first visited the Pope, he presented Pope John Paul II with one of Gurdon’s sculptures. He has a large cross hanging above the altar of the College of Preachers, a building adjacent to the Washington Cathedral.

Gurdon passed away in April 2017. He is survived by his wife Martha and their three daughters, Ann, Mary and Sarah. His son David passed away in 2019. He has seven grandchildren: Elisa, Julia, Shannan, Kristyn, Jack, Gabriel and Grace. Martha retired as a marriage and family therapist, and a long time teacher. She lives in Ithaca, New York.