Westmont Magazine Finding Work along the Board
After a 34-year career in higher education writing books and teaching philosophy and religious studies, Jerry Gill ’56 decided to retire in 1994 and leave Albany, N.Y., for Tucson, Ariz. But he didn’t enjoy the lack of focus in his life and soon jumped at a job offer. “Retirement just didn’t feel right,” he explains. “I’m not doing that again.”
Not only is he teaching at Pima County Community College, but he is working with BorderLinks, a new semester-long experiential education program along the Mexican border. Five colleges are involved in the project: Boston College, Iona College, Warren Wilson College, Mars Hill College, and Westmont. He is the academic coordinator and will also serve on the faculty.
An avid traveler who has led many student groups abroad, Jerry understands the importance of cross-cultural experiences. He also values interdisciplinary efforts and has created and taught classes such as philosophy and film, philosophy of sport, and Native American world views.
When he started attending Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, an activist congregation that helped launch the Sanctuary Movement in the 1980s, he became interested in border-related issues. Learning about the poverty, environmental degradation, and health hazards existing along the 2,000-mile Mexican border inspired him to take action.
“I hope that bringing students to this area will help more North Americans understand the realities of border economics and immigration and lead to change,” he says.
“It’s essential that Christians understand justice as part of the Gospel,” he adds. “We have to do more than feed the poor; we have to ask why they are poor and what we can do about it.”
Jerry visited Westmont last fall to promote BorderLinks and was delighted that the gardens behind Kerrwood Hall remain unchanged after 50 years. “My Westmont professors loved me and inspired me to become a professor,” he recalls. “I felt called to teach, thanks to the influence of people like Ken Monroe.”
After graduating from Westmont in 1956, Jerry earned a master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Washington and a master’s degree in divinity at New York Theological Seminary. He did his doctoral work at Duke University where he received a Ph.D. in the philosophy of religion. He has taught at Seattle Pacific University, Rhodes College, Eckerd College, Eastern College, and College of St. Rose, where he is professor emeritus of philosophy and religious studies.
His scholarly work is prolific. Jerry has written 16 books on topics related to philosophy and religion and has edited seven others. Throughout his career, he has contributed more than 100 articles to academic journals.
Like his wife, Mari Sorri, who is a ceramic potter, Jerry is interested in art and describes himself as an amateur sculptor. He also enjoys studying anthropology. BorderLinks provides an ideal outlet for his many interests, scholarly work, cross-cultural experiences and heart-felt Christian convictions.