Dean’s Update - May 15, 2023

May 15, 2023

Dear Colleagues:

I write this morning from Athens, where I am with Joe DiLuzio (Classics) and ten Honors College students. During two weeks here under the sponsorship of BU Missions, we’ll assist with a ministry to indigent Greeks and refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Iran, and we’ll collaborate in other projects at First Greek Evangelical Church and Greek Bible College.

We’ll also trace St. Paul’s steps, whose visit to Athens is recorded in Acts 17. The text indicates amazement and provocation as he walked in the agora, talked with Athenians, and observed the monumental grandeur of the Acropolis and many other expressions of piety. The latter included an altar to an unknown god, which prompted Paul’s learned discourse with philosophers whose questions he heard graciously and generously.

Our visit follows the pattern of generations who have traveled to see this ancient city’s wonders. In modern times, 19th-century philhellenism inspired countless pilgrimages to Athens. Perhaps none was more famous than Lord Byron’s. He left his name carved in a pillar at Poseidon’s temple in Sounion and wrote ‘The Isles of Greece’, and went on to fight and die in the Greek War of Independence. Mark Twain made his own memorable visit to Athens, recounted in Innocents Abroad. His escapade included a breach of quarantine, evasion of port authorities in Piraeus, bribery of a watchman to gain entry to the Acropolis, and rambling over the Parthenon’s fallen columns by moonlight.

More aptly than Lord Byron or Mark Twain, Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st earl of Lytton, captured the desolate beauty of the ruined Parthenon, and all it betokens, in ‘Athens’:

The burnt-out heart of Hellas here behold !
Quench’d fire-pit of the quick explosive Past,
Thought’s highest crater—all its fervours cold,
Ashes and dust at last !

And what Hellenic light is living now
To gild, not Greece, but other lands, is given :
Not where the splendour sank, the after-glow
Of sunset stays in heaven.

But loud o’er Grecian ruins still the lark
Doth, as of old, Hyperion’s glory hail,
And from Hymettus, in the moonlight, hark
The exuberant nightingale !

The poem evokes a greatness to which humanity aspires, yet which despite high-flown vision, falls short of what’s most desired. That, Plato recognized, is the gift of being united forever to divine beauty, And as St. Paul told the Athenians of his day, human art and imagination cannot achieve this highest good, but must yield to the one in whom we live and move and have our being, the Lord who is hailed and harked by lark and nightingale.

Hold us in your prayers as we enjoy the best of the Greeks, and I will keep you in mine. In the meantime, note the following news and announcements within our academic community:

• In my year-end report for Provost Nancy Brickhouse, I highlighted several recent points of pride. Join me in gratitude for:

• Record-breaking support for the Honors College as part of the Give Light campaign. Last year’s $4.2 million is surpassed by this year’s total of $4,966,000 and counting, with promise of topping $5 million. Our overall Give Light campaign contributions now exceed $22 million, with one more year to achieve our academic unit goal of $25 million.

• Completing project planning and commencing work on renovations to Memorial, Alexander, and Draper, and building The Commons, in order to create a true campus home for the Honors College.

• Appointing Jonathan Tran as associate dean for faculty, and Alan Jacobs as the Jim and Sharon Harrod Chair of Christian Thought, along with celebrating the promotion of Lenore Wright to the rank of full professor.

• Launching our new postdoctoral teaching fellows program, with an eye on providing a professionally advantageous, formative opportunity for newly-minted PhDs of exceptional ability, and on bolstering the ranks and range of our teaching faculty.

• Producing nearly three-fourths of this year’s Baylor recipients of prestigious postbaccalaureate fellowships and scholarships, including 5 Fulbrights, 2 Borens, 1 Truman, 1 Marshall, 1 Goldwater, 1 Critical Language, and Baylor’s first ever recipient of the Hilary Rodham Clinton Award for Peace and Reconciliation.

We also achieved a 100% first-year retention and a rising 4-year graduation rate, growing research grant activity, and many other faculty and staff achievements. It’s been a banner year for the Honors College.

• Our faculty will sharpen research programs and refine pedagogical resources through summer professional development. They include Alejandro Castrillón, assistant professor of political science (Baylor Interdisciplicary Core), selected for ATL’s Summer Faculty Institute; Matthew Whelan, assistant professor of moral theology (Honors Program), named a Fellow of the Summer Ethics Seminar (also hosted by ATL); and Sarah-Jane Murray, associate professor of great tests and creative writing (Great Texts), chosen for University Libraries’ Affordable Course Materials Summer Fellowship. Whether by facilitated program or self-direction, summer is a productive season for us.

• Bon voyage to faculty leading summer study abroad programs. Baylor in Greece and Turkey will be led by Scott Moore, associate professor of philosophy (GTX), Melinda Nielsen, associate professor of classical literature (GTX), and Jason Whitlark, professor of religion (Baylor Interdisciplinary Core). Baylor in Italy’s archaeology program will be led by Davide Zori, associate professor of history and archaeology (BIC) and Colleen Zori, senior lecturer in BIC, in a return to central Italy for work on the San Giuliano Archaeological Research Project. Darren Middleton, professor of literature and theology, and director of the BIC, will join other Baylor faculty in supporting our Baylor in Oxford program.

• Congratulations to Sarah-Jane Murray, associate professor of great texts and creative writing (GTX), on her three-volume translation of the Medieval French Ovide Moralisé (Boydell and Brewer, 2023). Her decade-long work, supported by an NEH grant, makes available to English readers a text of staggering length, complexity, and significance. The first and only complete translation of the OM into any modern language, Sarah-Jane and her collaborator, Matthieu Boyd, have produced 1,300 pages of extraordinary work, including an extensive critical introduction. Bravo, Sarah-Jane!

All the best,

Douglas V. Henry | Dean
Honors College | Baylor University | 254.710.7689