Angela Christman, Loyola University Maryland theology professor and native plants gardener, dies

Angela Christman
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Angela Russell Christman, a Loyola University Maryland professor of theology who had been a Marine Corps lieutenant, died of pancreatic cancer April 24 at her Catonsville home. She was 62.

“When Dr. Christman was promoted to full professor I remember thinking that Angela is the real deal: a life-changing teacher dedicated to her students; a committed and productive scholar; and outstanding citizen of the University, always willing to serve in academic committees or as a program director,” said Loyola’s president, the Rev. Brian F. Linnane, a Jesuit priest.


"It was delightful to run into her. She was a warm and friendly person. We might discuss the news of her family. She was so very proud of her daughters.”

Born in Corpus, Christi, Texas, she was the daughter of Marine Brig. Gen. Eugene B. Russell and his wife, Carolyn Kimes. She was a graduate of Stafford High School in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and earned a degree in mathematics at the University of Virginia, where she belonged to the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps.


She joined the the Marines and was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. She left military service as a first lieutenant.

She was christened a Roman Catholic but decided to pursue holy orders in the Episcopal Church. She earned a master’s degree at Virginia Theological Seminary and a doctorate in Christianity and Judaism at the University of Virginia. She specialized in patristics, the study of the early Christian theologians.

She met her future husband, Thomas “Tom” Christman, at a social at Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

She was ordained a priest in 1988 and after moving to Baltimore, she was a guest preacher and taught adult education classes at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church on Edmondson Avenue.

She later returned to Roman Catholicism.

In 1994 she joined the faculty of Loyola University Maryland and was promoted to professor in the Department of Theology in 2007.

“Angela never gave up,” said Martha Taylor, Classics Department chair at Loyola. “She was always pushing to make things better. As an ex-Marine she could really be tough. She was a woman of deep faith, and she tried to make sure she was doing the right thing.”

She served at times as director of the Honors Program, director of the Catholic Studies Program and chair of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.


“Throughout her time at Loyola, she was a strong voice and advocate for the central role of the humanities in education,” said a school statement.

She published a number of articles and essays, edited two volumes on patristic biblical exegesis, and wrote a book, “What Did Ezekiel See? Christian Exegesis of Ezekiel’s Vision of the Chariot from Irenaeus to Gregory the Great.”

Dr. Christman, who celebrated 25 years of teaching at Loyola this year, received the University’s Bene Merenti Medal this spring to mark that milestone.

She taught a portion of a course, The Ancient World, in the Honors Program.

Her sister, Andrea Russell of The Plains, Virginia, said, “She considered herself an introvert and I considered her an extrovert. She was a realistic person and would face problems head-on. She would speak her mind but would allow other persons their opinions. She was also a ethical person.”

Her sister also said, “She was also concerned that the science students would get a well-rounded exposure in humanities."


“Angela was a great friend, and she made all her friends better people because they knew her,” Steve Fowl, dean of Loyola’s College of Arts and Sciences, said in a statement from the school. “She was not always an easy friend to have. She was dedicated to her faith and her core principles; she had strong and well-considered views that were not always fashionable, but she held them with integrity."

An enthusiastic gardener, with a concern for the environment, she filled the growing space around her Catonsville home with native plants she collected at the Herring Run nursery in Northeast Baltimore and while visiting her family in Virginia. Milkweed was one of her favorites.

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She planted specimens that would attract monarch butterflies and at times had four butterfly cages in her home.

Dr. Christman also took up weaving and won ribbons at the Howard County Fair for her work. She also gave demonstrations at the Sheep and Wool Festival in Howard County.

Dr. Christman had an Italian-born grandmother who inspired an interest in the country. She directed Loyola’s Rome Summer Study program and became a fellow of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan.

“She was fascinated by religious painting and mosaics,” said her husband, Thomas Christman. “The first time we were in Milan we did a forced march, almost Marine Corps style, from church to church.”


She accompanied her daughters in Irish dancing lessons and competitions. She was active with them at the Broesler School for Irish Dance and the Baltimore Feis, the local competition. She also arranged Irish dancing performances at local nursing homes.

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete at this time.

Survivors include her husband of 34 years, former director of training for the National Labor Relations Board, and her sister; two daughters, Sidney Christman of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Cecilia Christman of Catonsville; her parents, who live in The Plains, Virginia; and another sister, Hillary Russell Davidson of Warrenton, Virginia.