Philosophy Professor Stephen Evans Honored as Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year

  • Stephen Evans Cornelia Marschall Smith POY 2018
    C. Stephen Evans, Ph.D., University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, is the 2018 Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year at Baylor University. (Matthew Minard/Baylor University)
  • Stephen Evans with family Cornelia Marschall Smith POY 2018
    C. Stephen Evans, Ph.D., University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities and Baylor's 2018 Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year, was joined at the Academic Honors Convocation by (left) his wife Jan Evans, Ph.D., professor and graduate program director in Spanish and Portuguese, and his sister and brother-in-law, Dee and David Mitchell of Pearland, Texas. (Matthew Minard/Baylor University)
May 16, 2018

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WACO, Texas (May 16, 2018) – C. Stephen Evans, Ph.D., University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, director of the Baylor Center for Christian Philosophy and Distinguished Senior Fellow in the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, has been named the 2018 Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year.

The award, presented annually during the Academic Honors Convocation, recognizes a Baylor faculty member who makes a superlative contribution to the learning environment at Baylor in these areas:

  • Teaching, which is judged to be of the highest order of intellectual acumen and pedagogical effectiveness,
  • Research, which is recognized as outstanding by the national and/or international and local community of scholars, and
  • Service, which is regarded as exemplary in building the character of intellectual community at Baylor.

As this year’s recipient, Evans received a commemorative plaque and a $20,000 award. He will present a lecture on a topic of his choosing during the next academic year.

“Dr. Evans’ scholarship and service has represented Baylor in an exemplary way to the local, national, and international community. But at Baylor, as we all know, it is of paramount importance that our faculty contribute to their students’ lives in deep and lasting ways, and it is very clear that he has applied his considerable scholarly prowess to this endeavor,” said James Bennighof, Ph.D., vice provost for academic affairs and policy at Baylor.

A graduate of Wheaton College and Yale University, Evans joined the Baylor faculty in 2001 from Calvin College, where was professor of philosophy and dean for research and scholarship. He helped start Baylor’s doctoral program in philosophy, which has produced more than 50 Christians with Ph.D.’s, almost all of whom are now teaching philosophy in schools around the country and world.

“From the beginning I realized what a wonderful place Baylor is, and what a privilege it was to be part of the Baylor faculty,” Evans said. “That sense has only grown in the 17 years I have been here. I know of no other university or college, at least within the Protestant world, that shares Baylor’s mission to be a first-class university in which Christian faith undergirds and permeates all that we do. That unique mission has attracted a stellar student body, including the great students present here today, and a first-class group of faculty. I have loved my students here, both undergraduates and graduates, and I have had amazing colleagues.”

Evans has authored 18 books, five of which were published by Oxford University Press or Cambridge University Press, and edited or co-edited eight books, as well as three series. He has published more than 100 scholarly and review articles in the philosophy of religion and the human sciences and on Danish philosopher-theologian Søren Kierkegaard. His books have won several awards, including the 2012 C.S. Lewis Book Prize for best book for a general audience in the philosophy of religion or philosophical theology.

Evans has been the recipient of a number of significant fellowships and grants, his most recent a three-year, $2 million research grant from Templeton Religion Trust to study the human virtue of accountability. He also was named Outstanding Teacher for the College of Arts and Sciences at Baylor for 2011-2012 in the tenured faculty category.

Evans has served his profession as a member of multiple editorial boards of journals, book series and other publications; has participated in amicus curiae briefs for the Supreme Court; organized many conferences, seminars and workshops; and served on the boards of several scholarly societies, including as past president of the Society of Christian Philosophers and of the Kierkegaard Society of North America. He also is a member of the American Academy of Religion.

“Care and concern for students”

During the award presentation, Wes Null, Ph.D., vice provost for undergraduate education and institutional effectiveness, read some testimonials students shared in letters about Evans and his teaching:

    “After a discouraging homework session spent trying to make sense of Hegel, I can come to class and know that Dr. Evans’ discussion of the material will immediately help clarify my confusion. But Dr. Evans does not accomplish this by merely lecturing at his students; rather, he engages with his students and encourages them to tackle the difficult task of understanding complex … questions.”

    “[Dr.] Evans not only taught me how to read difficult philosophers like Kierkegaard and Hegel, he also taught me how to teach my own courses on ‘difficult topics’ … For these sorts of courses, content mastery is not sufficient. Instead, the teacher must create a space in which students can grapple with questions and judge the answers for themselves.”

    “He is such an expert on the things he teaches that he could probably do fine without any preparation at all, but his preparation is more extensive than any other professor of which I am aware. For example, the day he taught Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, he came to class with dozens of pages of handwritten notes that he had just taken. It came to light that he had read Fear and Trembling at least 50—yes, 50—times before and had written extensively on it. Nevertheless, he read it for a 51st time and took careful notes in order to prepare for the seminar.”

    “From personal experience, I attest that Dr. Evans loves his students.”

    “I have good evidence that [his meticulous preparation] is motivated by love for his students and particularly by love for the God in whose image those students are created.”

    “He is clearly the kind of professor who takes a sincere interest in his students and their well-being.”

    “Dr. Evans consistently demonstrates a great level of care and concern for his students. He is very gracious with his time and is always willing to meet with students—both graduate and undergraduate.”

    “In my time at Baylor University, Dr. Evans has been the single-most influential professor I have had the privilege of studying under. He is the most encouraging and supportive professor and person I have ever known. As I reflect on my undergraduate career, I realize how fortunate I am to have studied under Dr. Evans and to have known him on a more personal level. His impact on not only me but all of his other students is clear and profound. If I can have even half of the career Dr. Evans has had in professional and personal life, it would be a life well lived.”

The Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year honor was inaugurated 15 years ago by the Office of the Provost and is named for Cornelia Marschall Smith, Ph.D., a 1918 Baylor biology graduate who earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1925 and her doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in 1928. She was a professor of biology at Baylor from 1940 to 1967, chair of the biology department from 1943 to 1967 and director of Strecker Museum from 1943 to 1967. She retired in 1967 but maintained an office in Armstrong Browning Library to assist charitable causes. In 1980, Baylor honored Smith with an endowed chair known as The Cornelia Marschall Smith Professorship in Biology. She was celebrated among her colleagues, students and alumni for fine teaching, generous mentoring and her many interdisciplinary interests. She was a lively and continuing contributor to the Baylor intellectual community until her death on Aug. 27, 1997, at age 101.

Past recipients of the award are D. Thomas Hanks (2004, English), Robert M. Baird (2005, Philosophy), Kevin Pinney (2006, Chemistry), Ann Rushing (2007, Biology), Wallace L. Daniel (2008, History), William D. Hillis (2009, Biology), Joyce Jones (2010, Music), Robert F. Darden (2011, Journalism), Roger E. Kirk (2012, Psychology and Neuroscience), William H. Bellinger Jr. (2013, Religion), Joseph A. McKinney (2014, Economics), David L. Jeffrey (2015, Great Texts); Johnny L. Henderson (2016, Mathematics); and Alden Smith (2017, Classics).

Nominations for the award come from all faculty, students and alumni, and the recipient of the award is chosen from among the nominees by a committee of four faculty members and Bennighof. This year’s committee included Julie K. DeGraffenreid, Ph.D., associate professor of history; Marcie H. Moehnke, Ph.D., senior lecturer of biology; Rishi Sriram, Ph.D., associate professor, associate chair and graduate program director of educational leadership and faculty steward for Brooks Residential College; and James Stamey, Ph.D., professor and graduate program director of statistical science.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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