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Loyola community mourns loss of Zen expert

Loyola announcement - July 21, 2006

Loyola history professor Benjamin Wren passed away on Thursday, July 20, 2006. He was 75 years old.

Born in Berkeley in 1931, he joined the Jesuits when he was 17. He received a bachelor of arts in history from Spring Hill College in 1954, licentiate in sacred theology in theology and philosophy from St. Louis University in 1963, a master’s of arts in oriental studies from the University of Arizona in 1967, and a doctor of philosophy in history from the University of Arizona in 1973. Wren began teaching at Loyola in 1974.

His areas of expertise included Chinese history, Japanese history and culture, and world civilizations. Wren studied Zen since 1956, under Yamada Roshi in Kamakura, Japan and led many Zen retreats throughout the U.S. He also studied ikebana, Japanese flower arranging, under Sofu Teshigahara of the Sogetsu School in Tokyo. He led many lectures and retreats, and was known for his unique teaching approaches. He wrote several published articles, and is the author of Zen Among the Magnolias, a book that serves both as a guide to Zen Buddhism as well as a commemoration of his own experiences teaching Zen practices in New Orleans.

Wren was passionate about Zen’s peace-making and curative effects. In a book review for Zen Among the Magnolias in The Times Picayune, Wren shared that, “most people live in the past or the future, in either guilt or anxiety. If you learn to live in the present moment to the best of your ability, you can move on. All the shame in the world has never done anyone any good. Don’t cling to sorrow.”

In 1996, he left the Jesuits and married his wife, Patricia Wren. Wren was a dedicated member of the Loyola community and will be missed. A memorial service will be held Aug. 19 from 12:30 to 3 p.m. at All Saints Episcopal Church, 100 Rex Drive in River Ridge. Bagnell and Son Funeral Home in Covington is in charge of arrangements.