Q&A with Jerry Sittser
Professor of Theology & Senior Fellow, Office of Church Engagement
Years of Service: 31
What is one outstanding moment in a class that you'll never forget?
Too many to count. I have taught many classes over the years. But in these past five years, four classes have emerged as my favorites: History of Christianity I, Religion in American Public Life, Monasticism: Old and New, and Seminar on Early Christianity. What I valued about each was the opportunity to introduce students to a world that they knew little or nothing about. Not simply the "facts," as we understand them, but the life, spirit, color, texture, sights and sounds of each subject and historical period. History is about people who actually lived. Students have many great moments discovering this in a deep, personal way.
What's changed since you first started teaching at Whitworth?
The campus is much bigger, and much lovelier. But the mission of the institution has remained the same, or even been more clarified and consolidated. And students are much the same, too. I love both mission and students. It is why I am here. It is true that we try to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity. Not perfectly, of course. But we keep pursuing it.
What place on campus is particularly special to you?
The coffee shop and my office. Both places are where I meet students. The people at the coffee shop will tell you what I order, every time! I love being with students. I still keep in touch with quite a number.
What is one unexpected thing you learned during your time at Whitworth?
Nothing unexpected really. I just enjoy this environment, my colleagues and our students. And I have a deep appreciation for the messy, creative Christian institution we are. We are fragile and dynamic.
How have you changed during your years at Whitworth?
I have learned how important it is to romance and win students to the world of higher education. My discipline is the history of Christianity. I want them to discover – really, to feel – that history is about real people making real decisions in real time and space. It is full of music, poetry, action, conflict, heroism, tragedy, betrayal and so much more. This kind of romancing became increasingly important to me over time.
What parting advice would you offer to current students and lifelong learners alike?
Keep reading, observing, gazing, exploring, experiencing. But most important of all, keep seeking Jesus! And do it with others. I have tracked enough students over the years to take pleasure in the kind of life they choose to live.
What's one Whitworth experience, value or memory that you'll carry with you into retirement?
The pure joy of working with students and colleagues in fulfilling the mission of the institution. Whitworth has been good to me. I feel nothing but gratitude.
What do you look forward to in retirement?
I don't believe in retirement but in redirection of energy and commitment. I will spend time with my wife, of course, and my eight grandchildren, and my kids. I will also spend time with alums and pastors. And I hope to write more, too.