Westmont Magazine A Philosopher and a Professor
As the new Kenneth and Peggy Monroe professor of philosophy, Mark Nelson carries on an important legacy. He was installed Oct. 27 in the faculty chair created through a $3.5 million bequest from the late Professor Kenneth Monroe and his wife, Peggy. Their estate also funds four full-tuition scholarships each year for outstanding students.
“The Monroes called the college to be a first-rate academic institution to the glory of God,” says Provost Shirley Mullen. “Professor Monroe labored tirelessly to promote fiscal solvency, faculty development and high academic standards.”
From 1945-1966, Monroe taught biblical studies, theology, philosophy, Mediterranean history and archaeology. He also chaired the social science, biblical studies and philosophy divisions and served as academic dean and interim president.
“It’s fitting that the Monroes be honored with a faculty chair — and that Professor Nelson be the first occupant,” Mullen says. “He exhibits the compelling combination of disciplinary excellence and exuberant joy that is the mark of those who are doing the very thing they were called to do,” Mullen says. “In addition to his disciplinary and pedagogical expertise, he brings a desire to reflect the commitments and convictions of the Kingdom.”
Events during the day-long celebration featured the installation ceremony, Nelson’s dedicatory lecture, “Redeeming the Time,” and a panel discussion, “What is Philosophy Good For?” Participants included: C. Stephen Evans, professor of philosophy and humanities at Baylor University, discussing “Philosophy in China”; independent scholar Heidi Marx-Wolf speaking on “Philosophy as Therapy”; Nathan Salmon, professor of philosophy at UC Santa Barbara, addressing “Philosophy in the Academy”; and Dallas Willard, professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California, reflecting on “Philosophy and the Church.”
In his lecture, Nelson suggested that “human lives are temporal wholes and that future outcomes may therefore affect the value of past events on our lives.” In other words, “Whether events early in my life are good or evil will depend to a certain extent on how my life turns out.” He finds hope in the idea that God may “redeem our past ills” and that in making all things new he may include the effects of our old deeds.
After graduating from Wheaton College, Nelson earned a master’s degree and a doctorate at the University of Notre Dame. He taught at Hampden-Sydney College before spending 12 years at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. He publishes regularly on a range of topics in value theory with contributions to major academic journals. He has received several awards for his teaching and scholarship. His areas of specialization include ethics and moral philosophy, epistemology and philosophy of religion, and he co-edited the book “Christian Theism and Moral Philosophy.”