Trailblazing Educator Humberto Mario Rasi Dies at 88

He mentored professionals and garnered support for Adventist students at public schools.

Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review
Trailblazing Educator Humberto Mario Rasi Dies at 88
Humberto Mario Rasi in 2011. [Photo: courtesy of the Rasi family]

Humberto Mario Rasi, a Seventh-day Adventist educator and scholar who was General Conference (GC) director of education, died from cancer on June. He was 88. A dedicated supporter and promoter of Adventist education and Adventist professionals, Rasi served the Adventist Church in various roles during his long and productive life.

He was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1935, on a Sabbath morning on the upper residential level of the Palermo Seventh-day Adventist Church, while his father, Mario Rasi, led out in Sabbath School several floors below. His mother, Frida Heyde Rasi, was a nurse and supported her husband in his ministry.

Rasi married Julieta Cuchma Cayrus in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1957. He taught at Instituto Florida, the Seventh-day Adventist church school in Buenos Aires, while both he and his wife studied. Earning a degree in Spanish Language and Literature from the Instituto Nacional del Profesorado José Hernández, he worked as a translator and editor at the Adventist publishing house in Argentina.

The couple moved to the United States in 1962. Both served at the Pacific Press Publishing Association (then in Mountain View, California). Rasi participated in translating and editing the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, several of Ellen G. White’s writings, and Arthur Maxwell’s collections of Bible Stories and Bedtime Stories into Spanish. During those years, they also welcomed a son, Leroy, and a daughter, Sylvia.

Rasi was invited to serve at the Modern Languages Department at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, in 1968, becoming chair in 1971. He obtained a PhD in Latin American History and Literature from Stanford University, where his doctoral dissertation focused on the work of Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges.

In 1972, Rasi helped found the Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church in Berrien Springs, Michigan, a mother church of many congregations. Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, his post-doctorate at Johns Hopkins University focused on the Christian faith of Basque Spanish author Miguel de Unamuno.

Rasi directed the poetry section of the Handbook of Latin American Studies for ten years, published by the U.S. Library of Congress. He also served as a consultant for the American Bible Society. Rasi returned to Andrews University as Dean of the Graduate School. Soon after, Rasi rejoined the Pacific Press as editorial vice-president. On his own initiative, he authored the visionary graphic novel-style Life of Jesus with illustrator Heber Pintos.

In 1980, and while still at Pacific Press, Rasi was ordained as a pastor in a ceremony led by then GC president Neal C. Wilson.

Rasi was called to the GC Education Department, where he worked for fifteen years, first as associate director, and then as director. He supervised the educational program for the world church. His responsibilities included more than 100 tertiary-level institutions on four continents.

As part of those efforts, in 1989, he launched College and University Dialogue, the first journal of ideas for Adventist college and university students studying in non-Adventist institutions. It was also the first publication to be produced simultaneously in four languages: English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Rasi launched the Institute for Christian Teaching, organizing dozens of international Integration of Faith and Learning seminars. These strengthened the connection between the faith and the professional training of tertiary Adventists working around the world. The nearly 1,500 monographs of seminar presenters were published in the 40-volume Christ in the Classroom.

He played an instrumental role in the growth of his alma mater, River Plate Adventist University in Argentina, which gained university status and opened a Medical School during his tenure. Rasi also served as Executive Director of the Foundation for Adventist Education and established the Adventist Professionals Network.

In recognition for his service to Adventist education, Rasi was awarded the General Conference Education Department Medallion of Distinction. His contributions to Adventist education were further recognized with the awarding of 4 doctorates honoris causa.

In retirement, he remained very active, mentoring and encouraging younger leaders. He collaborated with the Geoscience Research Institute in co-authoring the volumes Understanding Creation (2011); Entrusted: Christians and Environmental Care (2013); and Design and Catastrophe: 51 Scientists Explore Evidence in Nature (2021). He also taught Spanish to medical professionals at Loma Linda University.

A lifelong lover of music, as a young man Rasi directed and sang in an award-winning acapella quartet and prepared translations of several hymns, some together with his wife. These were included in a South American Division youth songbook. Others are included in the current Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.

In 2010, he established a publishing consortium, Adventus 21, to serve Adventist academics. He became director of the cable TV ministry LLBN Latino. He simultaneously launched the Spanish program Diálogo al Punto, where he conducted more than 250 interviews with Adventist professionals in various fields. Proceeds from his 2-volume Inspiración para hoy devotional books were donated to scholarships for students in three Seventh-day Adventist universities in Latin America.

Ted N. C. Wilson, GC president, sent a message of condolence to the family and commented on the late leader. “Dr. Rasi was an outstanding Seventh-day Adventist leader and consummate educator. He profoundly contributed to the advancement of the Advent movement and the Lord’s soon coming. How wonderful to plan to see Dr. Rasi on that exciting day when Christ’s trumpet call will awaken him, and we will ascend to complete our heavenly education forever with Jesus as our Master Teacher!” Wilson wrote.

Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, GC education director, agreed. “Dr. Rasi was a champion for the integration of faith and learning from a biblical foundation. He was refined and cultured, a Renaissance man who was knowledgeable and interested in theology, ideas, music, history, and literature,” she wrote. “He was an astute mentor with a sparkling intellect and wit, all harnessed in the service of the highest ideals of redemptive, Christian education…. When I was elected as director of education, the first thing he advised me was to be prepared to explain what my goals for Adventist education were. What an immeasurable blessing he has been and will continue to be for Adventist education throughout the years!”

Rasi’s family also shared their thoughts. “Faithful husband of Julieta for 66 years, a supportive and encouraging father, and proud grandfather who joyfully baptized his three granddaughters, Humberto Mario has fought the good fight and finished the race [2 Tim. 4:7],” his family wrote. “We look forward to seeing him again when Jesus returns, when there will be no more good-byes.”

Memorial contributions may be made to the Rasi Family Scholarship (Beca Rasi) at River Plate Adventist University in Argentina.

Sylvia Rasi Gregorutti and Julieta C. Rasi contributed to this story.

Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review