Bruce Webb (2009)

If you read editorials in the press you will frequently encounter the usual complaints about college professors remaining aloof in their ivory towers.  Indeed, in the modern academy, it is occasionally true that professors can often be more engaged with the narrow confines of their disciplines than with the challenges of citizenship or the general quality of learning on their campuses.  On the other hand, you would never catch this year’s Distinguished Faculty Award recipient in an ivory tower, if for no other reason than he hates heights and tries to find hotel rooms as close to the ground floor as possible.  But that certainly doesn’t limit his vista.   In fact, you can just as easily catch him talking with a colleague or student about good novels, recent films, and ancient philosophy as you can engage him in conversations about the complexities of his own field, economics. He is indeed a lover of the liberal arts, one who displays, you might say, a real catholicity of interests.  

For more than half a decade, this professor has led the effort to reshape the Core curriculum at Gordon.  To undertake such a task takes considerable patience, persistence, and high spirits—even on Friday afternoons.  Debates over the Core curricula do bring out the emotions and feistiness in students and faculty, not the least because the Core curricula help define our central values and priorities.  To oversee the revision of the Core takes the willingness to challenge colleagues to consider new approaches, to listen to students’ experiences and views, and to unveil proposal after proposal for public scrutiny, almost always leading to demands for more refinement.  Through it all, this professor has sought to hear the counsel of students and his peers and to hold to his vision that our Core will be defined by themes that will be vital for our students’ future.  Those themes concern a desire for global understanding, civic responsibility, theological reflection, aesthetic practice, and a knowledge of scientific methods and principles. 

As a teacher and a writer, he is appreciated for the clarity of his explanations and his attention to the interface of theology, ethics and economics.  Each year, he revitalizes the senior seminar around a current topic, such as the banking crisis or the economics of global warming.  In 1982, he was among a handful of the founding members of the Association of Christian Economists, and served for many years as the co-editor of the journal Faith & Economics.

Next fall Gordon launches a new Core curriculum.  For his work in guiding that revision, and for his many years of exciting students about the liberal arts, I am pleased to present the Senior Distinguished Faculty Award to Dr. Bruce Webb.