Photo by Peter Gager

• Department of Religion home page

John Gager, William H. Danforth Professor of Religion, enjoys a good walk -- especially up a sheer cliff face.
     His love of rock climbing isn't without hazards, even beyond the inevitable scrapes, sprains and occasional breaks. Four years ago, on what he describes as a "fairly easy" climb up Mont Blanc, Gager experienced something "more terrifying than any fall." Some 750 feet above flat ground, he says, "I heard a rumble, and an enormous rockfall came down the couloir 15 feet to my right."
     The couloir, an alpine ravine, was the established path of descent on this climb. "Starting two hours earlier would have put me and my guide in the couloir during the rockfall, and we'd have been dead," Gager says. After waiting out the slide, they continued their climb, reached the summit and then descended the rock-strewn couloir, creating a new trail.
     Putting himself in a challenging position and forging a path through altered terrain is all in a day's work for Gager, whether climbing a mountain, agitating for civil rights, teaching an ancient text or challenging a set of beliefs. He is someone who values change as growth and sees every day and every personal contact as an opportunity to change.


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