Westmont Magazine Distinguished by Their Peers
They are the professors alumni remember, the ones who make time for students outside of class, sharing their lives and their faith as well as their scholarship. They distinguish themselves with excellent teaching, mentoring and integration of faith and learning for 20 years or more, and their peers nominate them as Distinguished Professors. In November 2006, the college celebrated two such faculty: John Sider and Jeff Schloss. Only four others hold this title: Tony Askew, Arthur Lynip, Allan Nishimura and Bob Wennberg.
Former Provost Shirley Mullen praised English professor John Sider for his leadership. He has served on at least 12 committees and task forces, often as chair. He has led the English department, been the division coordinator, and served several terms as vice chair of the faculty. “John’s administrative work is always careful and precise, bearing the mark of an organized mind,” Mullen said.
“John is the life-long learner we want our students to be,” Mullen added. “His embodiment of the Christian liberal arts gentleman sets him in a league by himself on our faculty. He understands the reality of what we tell our students: Christian liberal arts learning is not just for the classroom, but for life.
“I remember John’s testimony after his first Europe Semester as he shared how much he had learned about teaching by being with students around the clock,” Mullen said. “He puzzled about how we might replicate here on campus the easy traffic between learned and lived experiences that travel programs make possible.” The fact that one of the Europe Semester groups he co-led meets for annual Thanksgiving reunions indicates he achieved some success in this endeavor (see related article on page 17).
Sider has demonstrated interdisciplinary aptitude. In preparing to teach art history on Europe Semester, he wrote a guidebook that became a resource for other faculty. A recipient of the Faculty Research Award, he has published refereed articles on various aspects of Shakespeare as well as the parables of Jesus. He completed more than 4,000 annotations for the eighth edition of the “Norton Anthology of English Literature.” Sider even wrote a play,“The Marriage of King Arthur,” which the theatre department performed. A music lover, he sang in the Los Angeles Master Chorale and built his own piano. For his sabbatical, he is researching the growing understanding of the liberal arts throughout Westmont’s history and leading the First-Year Faculty Faith-Learning Workshop.
“John’s own transformation through a life of learning has made him a provocative question-asker, an engaging conversationalist, a wise mentor and friend, and a committed churchman,” Mullen said.
In nominating him, a fellow professor noted Sider’s commitment to “important matters like friendship” as well as “his breadth of scholarship and care in preparing for new assignments.”
Sider joined the English faculty in 1972 after graduating from the University of Waterloo, earning a master’s degree at McMaster, completing a doctorate in English from Notre Dame and teaching at Bethel College in Indiana for several years.
Biologist Jeff Schloss is known on campus for his love of surfing, his cultivated casual dress, and his collegial relationship with students. “But behind the cover of California cool is a teacher-scholar of international reputation in the arena of relations between science and religion,” Mullen said.
His scholarship on evolution, religion and science includes 21 articles, book chapters or edited volumes, as well as countless presentations in the last decade alone. He has taught short courses for faculty and researchers at Calvin College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; served on panels or given lectures at Duke, Princeton, Stanford, Harvard, Cambridge, the Sorbonne and the University of Vienna; and collaborated with scholars from Stanford, Ursinus, Heidelberg, Calvin and Emory. He serves on more than a dozen editorial and advisory boards related to issues in science and religion, and he was invited to be a charter member of the International Society for Science and Religion.
Schloss has also mediated discussions about science and religion at the popular level both to the Christian community and to the culture at large, speaking at numerous church gatherings and on radio and television throughout the country. “He models what it means to be a successful academic and an effective public intellectual, bringing to all his engagements a heart and mind shaped by wide-ranging interdisciplinary knowledge and deep Christian conviction,” Mullen said.
Despite extensive travels to the Midwest, the South American rain forest and the South Pacific, Schloss has served on the Faculty Council, the first Long-Range Planning Task Force, and the Hiring for Mission Task Force. He has received the Teacher of the Year and the Faculty Research awards. In 25 years, he has developed at least 24 courses and taught in intercollegiate settings such as the Au Sable Institute, the Wheaton College Science Station, and the Global Stewardship Study Program (which he co-founded). He has directed students in research resulting in more than 20 undergraduate conference presentations.
In nominating Schloss as a Distinguished Professor, one of his peers wrote, “He has a compelling vision of the liberal arts . . . he has been an exceptionally effective teacher . . . He has put Westmont in the national and international dialogue on science and religion.”
Schloss has taught biology at Westmont since 1981. A graduate of Wheaton College, he earned a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology from Washington University.