posted January 12, 2009

Lecture on “Flashes of Zen: Life without Fear”

Dr. Boyd Wilson of the Hope College religion faculty will present the address "Flashes of Zen:  Life without Fear" on Monday, Jan. 26, at 7 p.m. in the college's Maas Center auditorium.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

Wilson is the second speaker in the new "Last Lecture Series" organized by the college's Alcor chapter of the national Mortar Board honorary society to feature members of the faculty.  The series debuted in November.

The title of the series is rhetorical.  The lectures are not literally presented as the last that the speakers will deliver at Hope, but are meant to highlight the advice that they would most want to share if the event was indeed the final opportunity for them to address the college's students.  The professors are being asked to reflect on their careers and lives, and to think deeply about what matters to them and about what wisdom they would like to impart.

The concept was inspired by the "Last Lecture" delivered at Carnegie Mellon University by Dr. Randy Pausch on Sept. 18, 2007.  Pausch, a member of the Carnegie Mellon faculty who had terminal pancreatic cancer - a fact known at the time that he spoke - presented "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams."  He died on July 25, 2008, at age 47.

A professor of religion and a member of the Hope faculty since 1982, Wilson has received a variety of honors from the college's students through the years.  During the college's Homecoming celebration in October, he received the 13th annual "Favorite Faculty/Staff Member" award presented by the student body. In 1987 he was presented the Hope Outstanding Professor Educator (H.O.P.E.) Award by the graduating seniors, and in 1990 he was chosen to deliver the college's Commencement address by that year's graduating class.

His research and teaching specialties are religions of India, Indian philosophy and theology.  In addition to his academic-year teaching, he has led a popular May Term travel seminar in India since the early 1990s.

Wilson has made numerous presentations concerning world religions and Indian culture to academic audiences and the general public, including a presentation concerning Indian women's folk art during the college's "Winter Happening" event in January 1994.  His most recent scholarly presentation was in September 2007 at the International Congress on Vedanta, where he delivered a paper titled "The Authority of Reason and the Reason of Authority:  Sankara's Use of Tarka in His Brahma Sutra Bhashya."  External support of his research through the years has included a Fulbright Scholar Award and a National Council for U.S.-Arab Relations grant.

He joined the Hope faculty as an assistant professor, and was promoted to associate professor in 1987 and full professor in 1996.  He has held visiting professorships at institutions including Tamilnadu Theological Seminary in Madurai, India; Western Theological Seminary in Holland; and Grand RapidsBaptistCollege (now CornerstoneUniversity).

Wilson holds his bachelor's degree from TrinityCollege, and received his M.A. from Wheaton College and his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.  Prior to coming to Hope he served churches in Miami, Fla., and Windham, Iowa, from 1973 to 1982.

Mortar Board is a national honor society that recognizes college seniors for outstanding achievement in scholarship, leadership and service, and provides opportunities for continued leadership development, promotes service to college and universities, and encourages lifelong contributions to the global community.  Since its founding in 1918, the organization has grown from the four founding chapters to 226 collegiate chapters with nearly 250,000 initiated members across the nation.

The Alcor chapter has existed at Hope since the 1936-37 academic year, although it did not become part of the national Mortar Board organization until 1961.

The chapter also sponsored a "last chance talk" during the 1960s.  The idea back then was to invite a faculty member to express his/her ideas under the hypothetical assumption that this would be the last opportunity to address the student body.  The late Dr. D. Ivan Dykstra, professor of philosophy, delivered the first "last chance talk" in the spring of 1962.

The Maas Center is located at 264 Columbia Ave., on Columbia Avenue at 11th Street.