In 2000, Sharon Daloz Parks described watching “young adults . . . reach for a place of belonging, integrity, and contribution that can anchor meaningful hope in themselves and our shared future—while the tides of globalization, cynicism, polarization, and consumerism, coupled with an uncertain economy and a shifting social-political milieu, play big roles in charting their course.”
In 2020, what else can one say in response but that the more things change, the more they stay the same? Better, in the words of Qoheleth: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has been already in the ages before us.”
The reliably-same aspects of Daloz Parks’ observation provide context for our calling as Christian educators. The men and women who join us on the banks of the Brazos this week want something they do not have, but for which they reach. They will come to our courses and look to us for guidance in understanding who they are, to whom they belong, for what they were made, how the world works, and why their lives matter. Meanwhile, the same troubling tides of every human generation continue to rise and fall.
Are we ready to help them? Do we possess the conviction and energy to raise questions where too-simple surety rests, to strengthen atrophied critical faculties, to offer insight in place of confusion, and to cultivate commendable character, all the while confounding the wisdom of the world with the foolishness of Christ? I hope so, for such educative efforts stand at the heart of the University’s mission.
Yet perhaps none could be entirely blamed for weariness at the whole idea of another semester’s Sisyphean work, now made all the more trying because of COVID. Fault there would be, however, in attempting by ourselves a work rightly done in, through, and by the grace of God.
Indeed, in an edifying vision apropos of our need, whether this year or any other, G.M. Hopkins reminds us of an inexhaustible source of renewal and a tender love given to us by the Holy Spirit:
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
In 2020, what else can one say in response but Amen? You’re in my prayers, dear colleagues, as we begin anew the good work to which we have been called.
Please take note of several other matters of importance within our community:
• We owe a debt of gratitude to Don and Judy Schmeltekopf
, long-time friends of the Honors College. While provost (1991-2003), Don led Baylor to establish the HC, thereby elevating honors education and launching a hallmark initiative uniting academic excellence and Christian commitment. Now, Don and Judy are helping us reach new levels of impact through a generous estate gift commitment creating the Donald and Judy Schmeltekopf Endowed Lectureship in Ethics and Culture, as well as an accompanying endowed scholarship fund. We are truly grateful for you, Don and Judy.
• Speaking of scholarships, our total endowed scholarship funds number thirty, with half established in the last five years. These scholarships provide crucial support to students seeking rigorous learning in the light of Christ. Fundraising for student scholarships is a high priority for me. If you know of anyone interested in supporting honors education through scholarship gifts, do let me know.
• Provost Nancy Brickhouse
has asked us to develop standards for promotion to full professor. To this end, I have named an ad hoc Committee for Promotion Standards: Lori Baker
, professor of anthropology and vice provost for faculty development and diversity; Barry Harvey
, professor of theology in the Great Texts Program (chair); Julia Hejduk
, professor of classics and associate dean; Alan Jacobs
, distinguished professor of the humanities in the Honors Program; and Jason Whitlark
, professor of New Testament in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core. Please give appreciation to these colleagues for their efforts and reach out to any of them with suggestions or questions.
• Deadlines are near at hand for three internally funded research initiatives: a Postdoctoral Hiring Program
(September 1), University Research Committee Grants Program
(September 28), and Arts and Humanities Faculty Research Program
(September 28). In addition, curated, discipline-based lists of external funding sources are maintained by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (here
). These resources can help greatly with ongoing and anticipated research projects.
• Congratulations to Lenore Wright
, associate professor of philosophy in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, co-editor with Christopher Richmann of Called to Teach: Excellence, Commitment, and Community in Christian Higher Education
(Wipf and Stock, 2020). Featuring the contributions of two dozen Baylor faculty from around the University—including fellow BICers Candi Cann
and Anne-Marie Schultz
—the book is praised as “refreshingly close to the ground” in offering “inspiration combined with practical wisdom” for the art of teaching.
All the best,
Douglas V. Henry | Dean
Honors College | Baylor University
baylor.edu/honorscollege | 254.710.7689