Baylor Announces Alan Jacobs, Ph.D., as Inaugural Holder of The Jim and Sharon Harrod Endowed Chair of Christian Thought
Alan Jacobs, Ph.D., a longtime Baylor Honors College faculty member, literary critic and author, has been appointed as The Jim and Sharon Harrod Endowed Chair of Christian Thought. In this position, Jacobs will build on decades of past scholarship to promote deep study of the relationship between faith and knowledge, while fostering rich avenues for transformational learning among Baylor’s students within the Honors College. The Harrod Chair also will further ensure Baylor is a national leader in dialogue concerning the intersection of faith and learning in higher education.
“The Jim and Sharon Harrod Endowed Chair of Christian Thought provides an exciting opportunity to teach and advocate for the deep and rich heritage of Christian thought that we can bring to bear across disciplines,” Jacobs said. “There are few universities in the world where donors would fund this particular set of priorities, and I’m delighted to build on the important work done to effectively bring the resources of the Christian tradition into dialogue on a variety of topics. Above all, I want to be a good steward of the resources and platform afforded through the Harrods’ generosity.”
Jacobs came to Baylor in 2013 as Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program following nearly three decades at Wheaton College. Renowned as a literary critic and public intellectual whose work has appeared in dozens of publications, both academic and popular, Jacobs infuses his scholarship and commentary with insights shaped through his Christian faith. The author and editor of nearly 20 books, including How to Think and Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind, Jacobs has further shaped discourse in magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s and more.
“The Harrods' visionary gift puts a grand stake in the ground on behalf of Christian scholarship and teaching of the highest order. I remain grateful and humbled by their significant partnership supporting Baylor’s mission and its expression in the Honors College, as well as their desire to advance our strategic goals in Illuminate Forward,” Douglas Henry, Dean of the Honors College, said. “I am also elated that the first holder of this endowed chair is our own internationally esteemed Alan Jacobs. Along with his critical acumen, Alan brings to all of his work the intellectual and moral resources of two thousand years of Christian faith, thought, witness, and life.”
INTERDISCIPLINARY LEADERSHIP IN CHRISTIAN THOUGHTAs a humanities professor with a focus on British literature, theology and literature, literary theory and the technologies through which people read and write, Jacobs brings an interdisciplinary background into the Harrod Chair position. Dating back to his early years in higher education, Jacobs has long sought to study and elevate Christian thought in a variety of disciplines.
“There’s really not a field of human endeavor where the intellectual content of the Christian life is not relevant. It’s just a matter of finding that relevance,” Jacobs said. “There is an enormously rich and diverse intellectual inheritance as well. The idea that we should draw on this rich history of Christian faith in all our thinking is something has motivated my teaching and scholarship, and I hope to encourage others to do the same.”
Jacobs points to the legendary author and apologist C.S. Lewis as an example of Christian thought in the public sphere.
“He wasn’t a Biblical scholar or theologian; he was trained in literature and philosophy,” Jacobs said. “Lewis wrote from the perspective of someone who worked hard at critical thinking and storytelling, and he brought the resources of the Christian tradition to those tasks.
“So, when you say Christian thought, it’s the idea that Christianity is a way of life. Of course, it’s a set of beliefs and practices, but it’s a complete way of life and a complete way of thinking that impacts literature and philosophy, economics, nursing, business or engineering just as it does theology or religious studies.”
SUSTAINED SCHOLARSHIP PROMOTING HUMAN FLOURISHING, LEADERSHIP AND ETHICSThe Jim and Sharon Harrod Endowed Chair of Christian Thought was established through the generosity of donors Jim and Sharon Harrod of Horseshoe Bay, Texas. They chose to create enduring support through The Harrod Chair based upon their belief that a college education should offer a Christian dimension to learning. The Harrods chose Baylor for this endowment after experiencing the University’s approach to Christian higher education through their daughters, Kelly Woods (B.A. ’90) and Mary Kate Garrison (B.A. ’94, M.A. ’98), and son-in-law, Will Woods (B.B.A. ’94, J.D. ’98). Their grandson, Ben Woods, is currently enrolled in the Class of 2026.
This position supports the Human Flourishing, Leadership and Ethics initiative within Illuminate, the University’s strategic plan, now furthered through Illuminate Forward, and qualified for matching support through the Give Light Campaign’s Illuminate Chair Matching Program. Through Give Light, Baylor’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, the University surpassed the goal of $1.2 billion in support of the University’s aspirations within Illuminate.
“Baylor University is the right place to advance these topics, and I believe the Honors College is an especially good environment in which to think along these lines,” Jacobs said. “Baylor’s model of Christian identity is very distinctive and enables intellectual freedom in the integration of faith and learning.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity, and the bully pulpit from which I can speak to students, colleagues and to people beyond Baylor to encourage them that the integration of faith and scholarship, and Christian thought, is worth doing. Don’t be afraid to pursue it, to take intellectual risks, and to test and see how the Christian tradition holds up as you think deeply about the work you already do.”