Carol Wintermute, a longtime leader of the humanist movement in the United States, died on August 30, 2016, in Princeton, New Jersey, due to complications from a recent stroke. She was 75 years old.
Carol was born on October 16, 1940 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was raised by liberal parents who were Quakers for a period of time but were religiously unaffiliated for most of their lives. By age eleven, Carol identified as an atheist. She learned about Unitarian Universalism in college and, after starting a family of her own, she joined her local Unitarian church to find a likeminded community and religious education for her children.
Carol received a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Denison University in Ohio in 1962. She did her postgraduate work in psychology, and completed coursework for a master’s and doctorate in family social science at the University of Minnesota in 1974. She also completed coursework for the Independent Study Program for Minister of Religious Education through the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1984. Over the years she has been a visual aids librarian at the Freer Gallery of the Smithsonian, teacher of human sexuality courses, research assistant in an experimental drug education program, coordinator of an early childhood program for the St. Paul school system, an instructor in family social science at the University of Minnesota, and a branch manager of the American Red Cross.
Carol began her involvement in humanism when she joined the First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she taught Sunday school and later became the society’s director of religious education, having written humanist curriculum for children and adults. The society’s minister, Khoren Arisian, invited her to become a student of the first class of The Humanist Institute (THI), an educational program that trains individuals to become effective leaders of the humanist movement through the study of humanist history, philosophy, ethics, and leadership skills. Upon graduating in 1987, she joined THI’s board of directors and later was appointed president from 1992 to 2002 and co-dean from 2003 until retiring in March of this year.
Through her leadership, Carol was instrumental in professionalizing humanist education in the United States. She developed The Humanist Institute’s graduate-level education curriculum, taught courses on moral and ethical development, and served as a national spokesperson for humanist education and leadership.
Carol’s many other roles in the humanist movement included serving as executive director of the International Association of Humanist Educators, Counselors, and Leaders from 1988 to 1992 (during which she lived in Brussels, Belgium) and chair of the board of trustees at the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis from 1978 to 1980.
In recent years, she was vice-president of the Institute for Humanist Studies (IHS), a think tank based in Washington, DC, and Rice University in Houston, Texas, and an active member of the American Humanist Association (AHA), serving on the board of trustees of the Humanist Foundation, the AHA board of directors’ nominations committee, and as a speaker on humanist education at AHA national conferences. Her articles have been published in UU World magazine, the Humanist magazine, and the journals Religious Humanism and Humanism Today. She also presided over dozens of weddings, memorials, and humanist forums for nearly three decades.
She is survived by her daughter, Kristin Wintermute, executive director of The Humanist Institute and board member of the American Humanist Association, and her son-in-law Joel Stromgren; her son David Wintermute and his fiancé Sherene Woolston; her sister Janet Burton and brother-in-law John Burton; nephews John and Scott Burton; niece Rebecca Burton; and five grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, also a fellow supporter of humanism, Hank Wintermute. Carol was an inspirational leader and beloved friend to all, and her guidance, wisdom, and dedication to humanism will be greatly missed.