Bert Haloviak, Renowned Archivist and Adventist Scholar, Dies at 84

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Published:
October 19, 2022

Bert Haloviak, known for his work as director of the General Conference Office of Archives and Statistics, where he made influential discoveries about Adventist Church history and led the digitization of church records, died on October 18. He was 84.

First joining the General Conference archives as a research assistant in 1975, he would go on to work there for 35 years, becoming director of the department in 1998.

“Bert Haloviak was a pioneer,” says David Trim, current director of Archives, Statistics, and Research for the General Conference. Working alongside F. Donald Yost, who was lead archivist from 1973 to 1995, Haloviak helped “put the GC archives on a firm and professional footing.”

Haloviak was responsible for creating an online archive of 1.5 million pages of documents and four websites to access information: adventistarchives.org, adventistyearbook.org, adventistdirectory.org, and adventiststatistics.org. Through the use of optical character recognition, researchers could search church records by keyword for the first time, providing “an immense boon” to Adventist scholarship, according to Trim.

While working at the General Conference, he also authored landmark studies of Adventist history. His first was about the 1919 Bible Conference, and a study of A. F. Ballenger was presented at the Glacier View meetings in 1980. In what has been called his “greatest documentary find,” he located the righteousness by faith sermons of Alonzo Jones.

Haloviak’s work unraveling the history of women’s ordination in the Adventist Church continues to be cited by scholars. In a presentation for the Southeastern California Conference’s discussion of women’s ordination in 2012 (published in Spectrum 40.4), he concluded that “the history of ministry in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the nineteenth century demonstrates that Seventh-day Adventist women indeed served as priests and ministers of the Lord.”

Born in Newburgh, New York, in 1937, Haloviak was a music prodigy who would play as an organist at the Newburgh Seventh-day Adventist Church on Sabbaths and the Unitarian Church on Sundays. He attended Atlantic Union College on a music scholarship but decided against a music career, leaving his senior year for a missionary assignment in New York City, where he served as a linotype operator at the Adventist Center in Times Square.

There he met and married Mary Bidwell, who was an organist for the Faith for Today television program. After being drafted and serving in the Army as part of Operation Whitecoat, he finished his college degree at Columbia Union College and continued on to complete a master’s in diplomatic history at the University of Maryland.

While working at the General Conference, Haloviak also taught on topics of theology and Adventist heritage at Columbia Union College / Washington Adventist University. After retiring in 2010, he continued to write and present scholarship, including a chapter in Ellen White: American Prophet (2014).

He is survived by his wife Mary, with whom he had two children: Kendra Haloviak Valentine and Brent Haloviak.

Colleagues recounted his acumen and personality. He “is a very enjoyable person with a good sense of humor,” Reinder Bruinsma wrote in 2015. “He has a phenomenal knowledge of the history of Adventism and many related historical topics.”

Michael Campbell, current director of Archives, Statistics, and Research for the North American Division of the Adventist Church, remembers interacting with Haloviak as a young scholar. “I first met Bert Haloviak behind a stack of papers in his office,” he says. “He guided me through the research process, helping me to locate historical documents and whetting my appetite for research—he even suggested writing an article, one of my first, for the last edition of the Adventist Encyclopedia. Bert had both a passion for Adventist history and a heart that showed in the detail he invested into his historical sleuthing, teaching, and writing. I will always be profoundly grateful for his influence in my life that encouraged me to pursue a vocation of preserving and promoting our Adventist past.”

 


Alex Aamodt is managing digital editor and the Roy Branson Investigative Reporter for Spectrum. You can contact him here.

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