posted February 13, 2014

Today's “Last Lecture” to Share Lessons Learned from a Lifetime in Academia

Dr. Donald Luidens, professor of sociology at Hope College, will present “As I Was Saying. . . .” on Monday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. in the Maas Center auditorium through the “Last Lecture Series” organized by the college’s Alcor chapter of the national Mortar Board honorary society.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

Often the title of the overall series is rhetorical, designed to reflect that the speakers are presenting the thoughts they would share if they had just one last opportunity to address the college’s students.  In Luidens’ case, however, it applies literally, since he will be retiring at the end of the school year.

Luidens, a 1969 Hope graduate, has been a member of the faculty since 1977.  In addition to his teaching on campus, he led students on study-abroad programs in both Japan and Palestine/Israel in the 1980s.

In 1987, he received the “Outstanding College Sociology Teacher of the Year Award” from the Michigan Sociological Association.  The graduating class awarded him the “Hope Outstanding Professor Educator” (H.O.P.E.) Award in 2003, and the college presented him with the “Janet L. Andersen Excellence in Teaching Award” in January of this year.

Luidens has received or co-received a variety of external grants in support of his research, which has focused primarily on the sociology of religion and the sociology of sport.  In many of those studies, student researchers were significant collaborators, which provided invaluable foundational experience as they continued their education in pursuit of graduate degrees.  Several are now faculty members at the college level (including Dr. Debra Swanson, who is a colleague in the department of sociology).

He is the author of dozens of scholarly articles, and author or editor of five books.  He co-authored the book “Vanishing Boundaries: The Religion of Mainline Protestant Baby Boomers,” which received the 1994 “Distinguished Book Award” from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and co-edited “Rethinking Secularization: Reformed Encounters with Modernity,” “Reformed Vitality: Continuity and Change in the Face of Modernity,” and “Reformed Encounters with Modernity: Perspectives from Three Continents.”  With Hope sociology colleague Dr. Roger Nemeth and collaborators from Calvin College, he co-authored the book “Divided by a Common Heritage: The Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America at the Beginning of the New Millennium.”  An article he co-wrote with Nemeth for “The Church Herald” received an “Award of Excellence” in the 1998 Awards Contest of the Associated Church Press.

Luidens grew up overseas, the son of Edwin and Ruth Luidens, missionaries serving in the Middle East through the Reformed Church in America.  He was the third generation of his family to attend Hope, graduating from the college with a history major.  He subsequently earned a master of divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1972, and a master’s and a doctorate at Rutgers University in 1974 and 1978 respectively.

He and his wife, Peggy, who is a Hope classmate, live in Holland.  They have two grown daughters, Sara and Martha (’03), and three grandchildren.

The chapter initiated the Last Lecture Series during the 2008-09 school year.  The speakers are 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.

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 230 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 has received multiple awards at the Mortar Board National Conference during each of the past several years, including being named the top chapter during the national conference in July 2010.  During the conference this past summer, the chapter received a “Golden Torch Award” and 19 “Project Excellence” awards, with long-time co-advisor Dr. Dianne Portfleet of the English faculty receiving one of only two top advising awards.

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 first 150 attending will receive one of the following books:  James Baldwin’s “Another Country,” Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” Piri Thomas’s “Down These Mean Streets” or Richard Wright’s “Native Son.”  A limited number of copies of “Divided by a Common Heritage: The Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America at the Beginning of the New Millennium” will be available as well.  The chapter will also distribute copies of the “Last Lecture” to audience members following the address.

There will also be a freewill donation box, with all gifts supporting Mortar Board’s many service projects.

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