Hoppers at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond

Watts Hall at Union Seminary

Joseph Hopper (1892–1971), my great-grandfather, graduated magna cum laude from Centre College in Kentucky in 1914. He matriculated to Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary that same year and graduated in 1917.1

In 1935, my great grandparents returned from the mission field in Korea (where they had been since 1920) for a furlough. That fall, he worked on his Th.D. degree at Union Theological Seminary2 in Richmond.3

His thesis was entitled The Apostolic Message to the Unconverted in the Orient Today. Building on “Stuart Robinson’s ‘Discourses of Redemption’ and Dr. Turnbull’s4 Bible studies”, he sought to outline the “successive revelations of the gospel, beginning with the first gospel in Eden” with the goal of showing “the final, absolute, and perfect message of God to sinful men, and that by it, and it alone, men of the Orient, and as well as of the Occident and other parts of the world, are being saved today”.

Joseph wrote just three years after Hocking’s seminal report Rethinking Missions: A Layman’s Inquiry After One Hundred Years. Hocking’s work was “funded by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and co-sponsored by the missions boards of seven Protestant denominations, including [the PCUSA].”5 The report argues that the work of missions should not be to impress on people the exclusive claims of Christ but seek the “continued co-existence [of other religions] with Christianity, each stimulating the other to their ultimate goal, unity in the completest religious truth”. If my grandfather’s thesis was not an intentional response to Hocking, it is certainly a response to the growing theological liberalism he perceived in missiology of the day.

Joseph’s son Joe Barron Hopper (1921–1992) attend Davidson College from 1938 to 1942. After graduation, he enrolled at Union Theological Seminary where he studied until 1945.

At Union, Joe met his future wife Dorothy [Dot] Longenecker. She had studied English at Queens College in Charlotte from 1937 to 1941, and then moved to Richmond to attend the [PCUS’s] Assembly’s Training School6 where she and Joe overlapped during her second year. She wrote a thesis entitled “The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Second Generation Foreign Missionaries of the Presbyterian Church U.S.” for her Master’s in Christian Education and graduated in 1943.

In 1950, my grandparents were forced to evacuate from Korea due to the impending war. They moved to Richmond where my father was soon born. My Joe B. started work on a Th.M. degree at Union Theological Seminary. His thesis was entitled The Holy Spirit and Five New Testament Doctrines. He did two “minors” which entailed reports on Protestant Reformation Leaders and Studies in the Parables of Jesus. My grandfather completed his Th.M. the following year and graduate on May 22, 1951.


  1. See here. [return]
  2. Now Union Presbyterian Seminary. [return]
  3. See page 35 of Mission to Korea. In the preface to his thesis he speaks of “resuming” his work; I’m not sure when it began. [return]
  4. M. Ryerson Turnbull, D.D., Head of the Department of English Bible at the Assembly Training School [return]
  5. See here [return]
  6. Later called the Presbyterian School for Christian Education [return]

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