Faculty AccoladeSept. 10, 2002
Some people might have a tough time convincing college students to commit their Friday evenings to scholarly pursuits at a professor's home. Dr. Chris Kearney has a harder time getting them to leave.
In truth, Dr. Kearney, an associate professor of biology who's been at Baylor since 1994, says he and his wife, Virginia, cherish the relationships they have formed with students in the Crane Scholars Program during these weekly gatherings. The feeling must be mutual, because attendance is not mandatory and the sessions run late.
"We can't get them out," Dr. Kearney jokes.
The evenings begin with a home-cooked meal and some small talk. Usually, though, the students are eager to take on the night's topic, he says.
Although both Kearneys teach at Baylor -- Virginia lectures in the English department -- they prefer to act as facilitators with this group.
"It's very hard to lecture to Crane scholars," he says. "They will always interrupt you because they have so much to say."
The Crane Scholars Program, revitalized in fall 2002 as part of Baylor's Horizon Program, is open to students who have a 3.5 GPA upon completion of their freshman year and who express a commitment to developing their faith. The program, which inducts about 18 students each year, was created to train the next generation of Christian professors and intellectual leaders, Dr. Kearney says.
Last fall, the students wrestled with the issues of suffering and sorrow. In addition to reading about the subject in the Bible and other Christian literature, they also discussed secular texts and films. Already, several have decided to pursue careers in academia, he says.
"They are beginning to learn of the power that is available to professors to influence students," he says.
The idea of uniting one's faith and intellect is not new to Dr. Kearney. Last year, he received a grant that allowed him to take a course at George W. Truett Theological Seminary while continuing to teach. He enrolled in "Introduction to Scriptures," a course he thought could help him, as a Christian and a scientist, better understand the complexities of the Bible.
"There were issues interpreting Scriptures and understanding the historical background of Scripture that I had dealt with only peripherally," he says. "I was able to have the luxury of time to confront these head-on."
That perspective is just part of what he shares with all of his students, some of whom he's come to regard as family.
"I feel very close to these students -- personally, intellectually, spiritually," he says. "We have to create family where we are."