STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 05/30/2012

Visionary: A Tribute to Mark Sargent

by Bruce Herman

I’ve known Mark Sargent for almost two decades and count him a dear personal friend with whom I can bare my soul. I also have the deepest professional regard for this man and have collaborated with him on many of Gordon’s most demanding committees: the college Senate, core curriculum committee, faculty searches, campus events planning, and other institutional contexts. I’ve had the privilege to observe him act on the most delicate of personnel decisions where the highest integrity and practical wisdom are required, and I’ve seen him live and act with grace through some of the hardest moments of our shared history over the past few years.

What I have witnessed in all these circumstances are the marks of character one rarely sees in such rich combination: depth of compassion and decisive toughness of mind; intellectual insight and fiscal perspicacity; philosophical nuance and practical political skill. And of course this mix of moral and intellectual character is exactly what has been needed at Gordon over the years of Mark’s tenure here. Without his particular giftedness this institution would have been far less likely to develop into the uniquely trusting, warm, rigorous academic community we know.

Mark is a man who understands the subtleties of larger cultural stories and how those narratives are always embedded and incarnated in personal, local realities. His intellectual stature is at a level that commands the respect of Gordon’s faculty and his personal winsomeness and wisdom are the virtues that have fostered an atmosphere of high rigor and simultaneous warmth and collegiality here. Mark’s language and style are substantive yet casual, decisive yet open. He is a listener and a thinker—but he is also a man of vision and tough-minded clarity.

In the story of “Christ and culture” Mark is someone who sees common ground where others see battle lines; someone more likely to be building bridges than digging trenches. And though his Christian faith runs very deep, Mark is not one to bandy God-talk or resort quickly or glibly to pious language—and this is why he so naturally enters intoconversation with those writers and thinkers of other folds who are and ought to be our allies in the culture at large.

This is where I see Mark’s most valued gifting—in his open, insightful engagement with our current cultural moment, yet his simultaneous grounding in the tradition that lends guidance and biblical wisdom to decision making and action. Phrases like “moral imagination” and “critical loyalty” naturally issue from Mark because he lives out these complex and crucial ways of being among us. We will miss this man’s caring, insightful leadership at Gordon College, and I will miss a dear personal friend when Mark moves to Westmont College to become their new Provost.

Where the West Coast may see a returning native son, we see an irreplaceable legacy of careful, loving leadership by one of the most gifted men ever to serve at this small but solid New England college.

Bruce Herman joined the Gordon faculty in 1984, and was instrumental in developing the art major. He was awarded the first fully endowed distinguished chair at Gordon in 2006, the Lothlórien Distinguished Chair in Fine Arts. His art has been exhibited internationally.

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