Those of us in academia, I suppose, can often seem like caricatures: full of exaggerated gestures and self-importance. But from the moment that this professor arrived at Gordon in 2003 he has struck me as the real deal. Bright. Intellectually curious. A lover of books, ideas and people. Full of vision for new initiatives and equipped with the energy and dedication sufficient to pursue them. And collegial in the best sense: able to listen with discernment and humility but also able to articulate his viewpoints with principle and conviction. Eager to jump across disciplinary boundaries. Willing to tackle some of the tougher challenges of institutional service with both high standards and with optimism.
He has high standards for his students as well—and optimism for their potential. This year he helped coach one of his teaching assistants as she earned a Fulbright scholarship. He has explored opportunities for our students to live and study in Salzburg. I appreciate his capacity to value what Gordon is—our traditions, our people, our mission—even as he envisions what more we can be. Along with a colleague, he conceived a major conference next fall on Christ in culture, and he has been working diligently with our Center for Christian Studies to plan it. And his own scholarship in these last few years has been prodigious—numerous articles and reviews as well as multiple conference presentations in the United States and Europe. He has hosted scholarly meetings at Gordon, and at present he is editing two books—the first, an international collection of essays on literary theory, the second, a selection of works on the aesthetic and ethical dimensions of the religious struggles in twentieth-century Germany. In all that he does, he displays a strong sense of vocation as a Christian scholar dedicated to engaging vital intellectual issues from the perspective of his faith.
And, while he may not be a caricature, he is actually rather good at drawing them. He often uses overhead transparencies in his classes sporting his whimsical cartoon characters. One of the frequently featured guests in those courses is his fellow Austrian, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now I am originally from California, and I can tell you that if I had to select an Austrian to be the governor of my home state I would be pleased to cast my ballot for this year’s recipient of the Junior Distinguished Faculty Award, assistant professor of German Dr. Gregor Thuswaldner.