Westmont Magazine Men of Distinction
How does a Westmont psychology major with a master’s degree in New Testament literature end up as an art dealer? When Jerry Eisley ’63 opened Foxhall Gallery in Washington, D.C., in 1976, he saw a need to reach out to artists and the general culture. So he and his wife, Twila, founded the Washington Arts Group, where artists committed to spiritual values and artistic integrity encourage each other to pursue excellence and professionalism in a Judeo Christian context.
For his leadership in developing programs and international exhibits integrating faith and art, Jerry received a Distinguished Service award at Homecoming 2003 in September.
The Arts Group sponsors performances by Christian artists and organizes seminars such as “Utility or Mystery: Sacred Art and Sacred Space in a Postmodern Setting.”
One of Jerry’s most notable projects, a traveling art exhibit called “Anacostia, A Place of Spirit,” has appeared in Washington, D.C., St. Petersburg and The Hague, and has invitations to go to New York, Ireland and Rome. Designed to enrich the lives of residents in forgotten areas, it depicts the people, places, and events of the D.C. area where Frederick Douglass lived.
When Union Station hosted the exhibit for Black History Month in 1999, it attracted national media attention and nearly 1.5 million viewers. It was chosen to represent cultural life in 2000 for the Local Legacies project celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Library of Congress.
While in Russia, Jerry met the top art historian at the Hermitage Museum, who is involved in outreach to Russian orphans. Since many artists in Jerry’s group work with children in Anacostia, he suggested an exhibit of artwork by Russian and American orphans. Jerry’s daughter, Rachel, has taken on this show for her senior thesis as an art major at James Madison University, and it will appear in 2005.
Jerry lectures frequently, and in 2000 he discussed Van Gogh’s spiritual vision at the Van Gogh Museum in Holland. He spoke on iconoclasm in the 21st century at the House of Scientists in St. Petersburg in 2003.
For nearly 35 years, Robin Thurman ’63 has worked with Wycliffe Bible translators in Papua New Guinea. To recognize his years of ministry and his significant leadership role, Westmont honored him with a Distinguished Service award at Homecoming 2003.
Robin has always enjoyed languages, and he learned about Wycliffe as a youth through a missionary from his church. A social science major during college, he worked with Student Missionary Fellowship for three years and served as president as a senior. During this time, his interest in Wycliffe grew.
After graduating from Westmont, Robin majored in Greek at Dallas Theological Seminary to prepare for a career with Wycliffe. He earned his master’s degree in 1967, went to jungle camp that year, and arrived in Papua New Guinea with his wife, Ruth, in 1968.
Robin began his Wycliffe work with the Chuave people, devising the first alphabet and writing system in their language and teaching them how to read and write. After 23 years, the Thurmans dedicated the Chuave New Testament in 1992. One of Robin’s greatest thrills is attending church in one of the villages and seeing the Chuave New Testament being used.
As the people of Papua New Guinea speak nearly 850 languages, Wycliffe has developed 185 programs in the country. Robin has served in several leadership positions for this ambitious work. He began as associate director and then became field director. Today he serves as translation coordinator, a big task given the 400 translators and the many consultants needed to check their work.
“Giving people the word in their own language so they could grow seemed like an important thing to do,” he says. “It’s not enough to become Christians; believers need to read the Bible, grow and become mature Christians. We believe that God led us to this work, and he has blessed it over the years. We’ve had a great experience, and so have our children.”