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Student dies in tragic accident

by Louisville Seminary | Jul 13, 2010
Joanna Marie Rittmann, a rising senior Master of Divinity student from Frametown, W.Va., died in a single car accident on June 24, 2010, in Harrison County, Ind., about 70 miles west of Louisville.

Joanna, 24, was described as "free spirited and loyal, loving and loved" and as a young woman who was passionate about environmental and social justice, music, and Biblical Hebrew. She enrolled in the Master of Divinity degree program at Louisville Seminary in 2008, following graduation from Berea College in Southeastern Kentucky. While pursuing her studies at the Seminary, she also served with many LPTS employees as she supported the work of several Seminary offices and in volunteer opportunities. She was a generous contributor to classroom discussions, served as a tutor for the Biblical Hebrew class, and her inquisitive mind motivated long and fruitful conversations outside of the classroom.

Weeks before her death, Joanna had completed an internship with the 2010 Eco-Stewards Program for young adults seeking to explore the complex environmental issues surrounding mountains, coal, land use, and sustainability in West Virginia. The program is an affiliate with Presbyterians for Earth Care, a grassroots eco-justice network of individuals and congregations, and Environmental Justice Ministries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Joanna is survived by husband, Jimmy Rittmann, a student at the University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work; her mother, Arbutus Hudnall, of Frametown; brother, Kevin Hudnall (Sandy), of Graham, N.C.; and sister, Beverly Moore (Bobby), of Frametown. She was preceded in death by her father, Johnny Hudnall.

News of Joanna’s death stunned the Seminary community, many who had begun their summer courses and others who were already away from campus for summer positions. Rev. Kilen Gray (MDiv ’02), Dean of Students at the Seminary, assembled a team of individuals, including faculty, administrators, and Louisville-based alums and Trustees, who provided immediate care to students and employees who expressed need for pastoral care. A prayer service was held in Caldwell Chapel, Friday evening, June 25, and a candlelight vigil was held in the residential area of the campus on the evening prior to Joanna’s funeral.

President Dean Thompson visited with Joanna’s mother, sister, and niece on Friday, June 25, after receiving word about Joanna’s death while he was traveling in West Virginia.

Louisville Seminary was represented at the funeral service on June 30, 2010, as the Rev. Dr. Lewis Brogdon officiated the service at the Richard M. Roach Funeral Home in Gassaway, W.Va. Dr. Brogdon, Associate Director of Recruitment and Admissions and Director of the Black Church Studies Program at Louisville Seminary, traveled with the Rev. Dr. Dianne Reistroffer, Professor of Ministry and Interim Director of Field Education, and Dale Melton, Vice President for Seminary Relations, who accompanied him to West Virginia and shared scripture and condolences on behalf of the campus community.

“As members of the LPTS delegation, we counted it a deep privilege to represent the Seminary community at what can only be described as a family-centered, faith-filled, powerful, and emotional day,” said Dr. Reistroffer in a message to the Seminary community. “As we visited with Joanna’s family and friends, we were struck by the faith and strength of both families (Joanna's and Jimmy's) as well as the various communities that have gathered around them, including Louisville Seminary.”

Dr. Brogdon’s message, "The story has not ended," celebrated "Joanna's beautiful life" and the story of her faith and commitment to "faith seeking understanding," justice, and to ministry, said Dr. Reistroffer.

“Lewis pointed out that her story will continue in each of us,” she shared, reporting that Joanna's mother smiled broadly when Dale Melton announced that Joanna would be honored as an alum at the May 2011 graduation.

A campus memorial service for Joanna is being scheduled for a time when more members of the Louisville Seminary community, especially returning students, and family and friends of Joanna and Jimmy are able to attend. The community will be notified when the information is confirmed.

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Funeral Service held in West Virginia, June 30, 2010.

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