An Oklahoma businessman and philanthropist has pledged more than $1 million to complete funding for an endowed chair in theology at Whitworth that recognizes and supports the school's strong legacy of biblical scholarship and teaching.
The chair will be named in honor of F. Dale Bruner, who retired in 1997 after 22 years as one of Whitworth's most influential and popular religion professors. With the unanimous recommendation of the department of theology & philosophy, Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Le Roy, '89, has appointed as the chair's first occupant James Edwards, '67, a nationally recognized theologian who carries on Bruner's legacy as a teacher and scholar at Whitworth.
Bill Welch, a longtime lay leader in the Presbyterian Church (USA), announced his pledge for the Bruner-Welch Endowed Chair in Theology at the Whitworth Institute of Ministry, in July, where Bruner and Edwards were featured lecturers. An additional $150,000 has been given or pledged for the chair by other donors.
"I'm thrilled to be able to honor my longtime friends Dale Bruner and Jim Edwards, who are making such significant contributions to theological scholarship and Christian life," Welch says.
Bruner joined the Whitworth faculty in 1975 and quickly became known for his passionate approach to teaching the biblical narrative. His classes drew students from departments across campus and routinely filled to capacity. Bruner's influence stretched far beyond the Whitworth campus through his highly regarded commentary on Matthew's Gospel and through his speaking and teaching at churches and conferences around the country.
The Bruner-Welch Endowed Chair in Theology will enable the department to preserve and strengthen its commitment to teaching and mentoring students while also providing resources to support theological scholarship, travel and service to the church.
Edwards, an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), holds a Ph.D. from Fuller Theological Seminary and an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He has also studied theology at the University of Zürich, in Switzerland, at the University of Tübingen, in Germany, and at Tyndale House, in Cambridge, England. A contributing editor to Christianity Today magazine, Edwards has published numerous articles and books for scholarly and popular audiences. His latest book, Is Jesus the Only Savior? (Eerdmans 2005), was named the top book of the year on apologetics and evangelism by Christianity Today.
"Jim Edwards is ideally qualified to be the first occupant of the Bruner-Welch Chair, which connects his well-known strengths in research, writing and teaching to issues facing our campus, the community and the church," Le Roy says. "I expect that the work Jim will be able to do in this role will further strengthen his department and Whitworth's profile nationally."