Stephen Joseph Stein, 81, of Bloomington, IN passed away January 12, 2022 at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, surrounded by his family. Stephen’s world was a wonderful mix of head, heart, and hands.
Stephen was born March 22, 1940 in Chillicothe, Missouri to Fred and Irene Stein. He spent his childhood moving around the country with his family, following the path of his father who served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force. He received a PhD from Yale University in 1970.
After he received his doctorate degree, he moved with his wife and two young children to Bloomington, where he taught and mentored students as an Indiana University professor in the Department of Religious Studies. He served as the department chair for ten years and also as an adjunct professor in the American Studies Program and the Department of History. During his long academic career, Stephen studied and wrote extensively about the history of religion in American culture, with an emphasis on alternative religious movements. Two of his key areas of interest were the life and works of 18th century theologian Johnathan Edwards and the fascinating history of Shakers in America. He published extensively during his lifetime, including two books that focused on these special interests: The Writings of Jonathan Edwards and The Shaker Experience in America. His many other books and articles were published by a wide range of academic institutions, including IU, Yale, Cambridge, and Oxford universities. During his tenure, Stephen received many awards for his teaching, including the Indiana University College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Faculty Award in 1991, the Chancellor’s Professorship in Teaching and Research in 1995, and the Indiana University Trustees Award for Teaching Excellence in 2003. Stephen retired from Indiana University in 2005.
Though he was a brilliant man of the mind, Stephen was first and foremost a family man. It’s impossible to overstate how much he loved his wife, children, and granddaughters. He was a gentle, loving soul with a great sense of humor who looked at small and simple things as extraordinary. He especially adored being a granddaddy and anything granddaughter related. He was an IU basketball fanatic and an avid “lucky rock” collector. He was a home builder with his son and a constant worker with a passion for mowing the lawn, cutting firewood, and picking up walnuts at “The Land,” his 80 acre retreat in Greene County. He loved nature and being outdoors thanks to his college-era adventures fighting fires for the U.S. Forest Service in California and summers spent tent camping with his family by the shores of the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada. He had a work ethic beyond comprehension. He was loved and respected by friends, students, and colleagues alike, and was a perfect example of how to be humble while having so much success. He taught classes in a blue blazer, oxford-cloth shirt, and spiffy tie, but was just as comfortable in an old white t-shirt and worn jeans. Eating sweets always put a bright smile on his face and he gave the best, warmest hugs in the world. In words he often used with his family, “We will miss you sorely because we love you dearly.”
Stephen is survived by his wife of 57 years, Devonia Stein, daughter Beth Stein (Alan Pittman) and granddaughter Sahalie Pittman, son Stephen Stein (Jackie) and granddaughters Alexandra and Avery, brothers David Stein (Judith) and Matthew Stein (Mary), and Sandy (wife of brother Jonathan Stein 1935-2016), and many nieces and nephews.
The Celebration of Life for Steve Stein will be Saturday, July 9, 2pm, at St. Thomas Lutheran Church, 3800 E. 3rd St. in Bloomington, Indiana. In lieu of flowers, donations to honor his memory can be made to the charity of your choice or the Devonia and Steve Stein Fellowship in the Study of American Religions which provides fellowships to graduate students at the Indiana University Department of Religious Studies.