A little over seventeen years ago I got a phone call from David Nystrom, professor at North Park, asking me if I would be willing to consider teaching at North Park. I said I was and that phone call led eventually to my being offered a teaching post at North Park University, where I have been teaching with delight. But this will be my last semester, and tomorrow I will announce our new opportunity.
Where to begin? I begin with David Nystrom and Sonia Bodi, who at that time were Dept chair and Humanities chair, who introduced me to all things North Park — and I cannot say enough about them and how I have missed them as they have moved on — and the many wonderful faculty in Humanities and Biblical and Theological Studies — including my friends Greg Clark, Daniel deRoulet, Ron Dooley, David Gill, Klyne Snodgrass, Boaz Johnson, Brad Nassif, Joel Willitts, Mary Veeneman, Ginny Olson, Jim Dekker, Justin Topp, Jeff Nelson, Kurt Peterson, Linda Parkyn, Linda Duncan … I could go on. I will miss more than anything my long early morning discussions with my good friends Joel Willitts and Boaz Johnson.
The students have been amazing and wonderful and … moans and groans omitted … from the days of Scott Nelson and Karen Wenell to current students like Teel Short and Cory Shumate and Josh Wooden and Kellie Carstensen and Trinity Mather and Abi Svoboda (this sizable group will get irritated with me if I skip any names but I will). My 8am Jesus of Nazareth classes, now taught at 9:50, where so many book ideas got their first airing; the constant teaching of the survey of the Bible class — from Berg to Magnuson to Carlson Tower — and those Honors students have been the highlight of almost every year. 4th Yr Seminar and Women, the Bible and the Church (led by Victor) … Students in the office chatting, and papers about conversion stories, and papers probing theological topics beyond their reach but amazingly somehow probing big questions with sound methods and ideas, and an irreplaceable memory — this year’s “The Group” who came to my office, early in the morning, every other week, and for whom I became barista and conversation partner (you are the best).
Long ago I used to begin my Jesus class with a form students were to fill out, and one of the questions was “What are your personal aspirations?” Well, one young woman in the back row jokingly wrote down “I want to be your daughter-in-law someday.” Guess what? She is! Before she had met our son, Lukas, she said this. Then Lukas, who eventually graduated from NPU while also playing in the Cubs organization, met Annika Nelson, they got married — and now we have two wonderful grandchildren because of North Park.
Everything about NPU breathes the Evangelical Covenant Church … who supported my book The Jesus Creed in ways that pushed me into circles and opportunities I never anticipated, whose pastors I have met and preached for and chatted with and corresponded with and prayed for … and who have become friends (like Mark Novak, Gary Walter, … better stop there) … and for the wonderful balance this gem of evangelicalism has somehow found.
When I landed at North Park David Horner was President … who was as much a standup comedian as I have ever met and then he was succeeded by David Parkyn, who has become a trusted friend and whose leadership style I admire. How David walked our campus through the last few years, from that nasty flood on has become a model for me of how leadership works well. And Joe Jones our Provost and Charles Peterson our Dean and Mark Olson and Carl Balsam — these folks have given their lives and entire days to the school in ways that deserve gratitude. I can’t fail to forget to mention that wonderful trio on the 2d floor: Susie Olsen, Sue Gost and Karen Mears. (I won’t be bugging you any more.)
When I walk out the gym at graduation, it will be with a memory of all the joys of the opportunity to teach at one of America’s finest Christian schools of learning.
I say this after a month or so of grieving what I knew would be a loss … and I loved North Park and will continue to do so…
… come back tomorrow, I’ll have an announcement.