Born and raised in a non-Christian home in southern California, Roberta became a passionate Christian during her student years at Whittier College where she became active in her Christian College Fellowship and InterVarsity. Majoring in political science and world history, she experienced a call from God to Christian service. After meeting her future husband John at an IVCF conference, they married and began studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. They joyfully welcomed three children, one girl and two boys into the family. Further graduate study led John into a university career as a research scientist while Roberta began working as the Director of Adult Education and Small Groups at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle. When Fuller Seminary asked Roberta to join the faculty of the School of Theology as the instructor in communications, they made the move to the Pasadena/LaCanada CA area.
At Fuller, she taught courses in “Building Christian Community through Small Groups”, “Women and Men in Ministry”, “Foundations of the Spiritual Life”, “Teaching the Bible” and “Adult Formation and Discipleship”. During the 13 years at Fuller, Roberta finished her own graduate work, was ordained in the Presbyterian Church USA, and founded the Christian Formation and Discipleship department and became the first tenured woman in the school of theology. She also served part-time at nearby La Canada Presbyterian Church. In 1979 she began her involvement with the US and International Boards and ministries of World Vision, traveling often to the developing world and places of deep poverty in more than 80 countries. She served as Moderator and then Chair of the International Board for about 12 years and later as International Minister at large. She is deeply committed to the needs of the poor, issues of justice, the empowerment of women, and advancing understanding and action by Christian disciples in advancing the holistic Gospel of the kingdom of God.
In 1987 Eastern College/University, an American Baptist college near Philadelphia, called Roberta to become their first full-time president. She and John went east and stayed for 10 years. During her time, the college tripled in size, strengthened its Christian identity and academic reputation, and trained numerous leaders for US and developing world holistic Christian ministries. She founded the Center for Christian Women in Leadership, which was later named for her. This includes The Priscilla Institute for women in ministry from the inner city of Philadelphia. In late 1996 she and John moved to Solana Beach near San Diego where Roberta became the senior pastor of a large Presbyterian church. While leading the congregation in a major outreach ministry to the Afar people of Ethiopia, Roberta felt the call of God to work full-time with World Vision, focused on the spiritual encouragement of its 30,000 staff worldwide. Over the years, she has written or co-authored 7 books and more than 100 published articles and book chapters. 7 universities or colleges have awarded her an honorary doctorate. In 2003 Roberta and John moved to northern California to be closer to their children and grandchildren. Since retiring from WV, Roberta works part-time, teaching in seminaries and churches, consulting and writing.
In addition to her husband of 51 years, her children and 8 grandchildren, she loves mystery stories, her rose garden and her Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Wimsey.