For most of our alumni, the impact of Houghton College is embodied in the person of a faculty or staff mentor. It is this person that alumni want to visit when returning to campus. It is this person they want to honor in named scholarships. It is this person through whom their Houghton education has shaped their lives forever.
For me, and hundreds of other Houghton alumni, that mentor was Professor Katherine Lindley ’43. For over 30 years, Professor Lindley dedicated herself to compelling Houghton students to pay attention to things that mattered. That meant, for one, the significance of particular moments in history. Whether it was Charles Martel’s victory in 732 at the Battle of Tours, Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses in 1517, or President Roosevelt’s failing health at the 1945 Yalta Conference, she wanted us to know that these specific factors shaped the course of history in one way rather than another forever.
Professor Lindley wanted us to know that our Houghton education mattered. We were not just earning a degree; we were being offered the lavish gift of a Christian liberal arts education. We were being invited to receive the treasures of wisdom and knowledge through the full range of human disciplines, to be sure, but were assured that, ultimately, these riches are found in the person of Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:3).
Professor Lindley wanted us to know that our own lives mattered. From our first encounter with her, she challenged us to see possibilities for our lives that we had not considered for ourselves. She saw in us potential we could not yet see, and her confidence in us helped us to take steps most of us would not have had courage to take on our own. For many of her students, this meant pursuing law school; for me, it meant graduate school in history and a calling in Christian higher education.
As Houghton’s president, I have had the privilege of hearing the stories of other Houghton mentors— Professor Shannon, Professor Shea, Professor Kellogg, Pop Mills, Professor Warren Woolsey and, more recently, Professor Yuly, Professor Bates, Professor Kiiti, Coach Lewis, Professor Airhart, Professor Murphy, Professor Hegeman, Professor Gaerte, Dean Danner and many others. We need the diversity of mentors among our faculty and staff to match the rich diversity of gifts and experiences among our student body.
We know the Christian doctrine of incarnation. In Jesus Christ, God’s grace and truth came to us—and comes to us—in a person. This doctrine is much more than abstract theology, and the principle of incarnation extends well beyond the Trinity. God mediates his voice and his presence most often in this world through people. As Houghton alumni, God transformed us through the impact of faculty and staff mentors so that we, in turn, might be agents of transformation in the world.
At a time when colleges and universities across the country are opting more and more to cut instructional costs by relying increasingly on adjunct faculty or graduate assistants to teach undergraduate classes, Houghton is choosing deliberately to continue to invest in faculty who are fully committed to the mission and the students of this institution. Transformation happens through sustained interaction in a wide range of settings. Providing for the likelihood of such interaction is a core commitment of Houghton’s educational strategy.
It is this transforming work of incarnational mentoring that we celebrate in this issue of Houghton. We trust that, as you enjoy these stories, you will be reminded of your own mentors and inspired in the ongoing work of mentoring
to which God calls us in our own particular arena of impact.
Shirley A. Mullen, Class of 1976