Student Alumni Ambassador Will Ellison, a freshman business and public policy major from Duluth, sat down with alumnus and Professor Emeritus of Religion and Philosophy Dr. John Kay, '56, of Young Harris, during the recent retired and current faculty dinner to find out what he misses most about teaching at the College.
Will: You inspired so many students during your years at the College. YHC is lucky to have many great faculty members that carry on the tradition of inspiring students. My English professor Louisa Franklin has definitely influenced me during my time at the College. She’s a great professor inside the classroom and out! She goes out of her way to help students with any and every need they have and truly wants us to do well. What do you miss most about teaching at YHC?
Dr. Kay: Along with preaching, teaching appears to be part of my DNA.
I was on the YHC faculty from 1967 to 2001—a period of 34 years—and afterwards I taught a course in each of five subsequent summers. Over the years, I taught five different courses: two biblical courses, “Introduction to World Religions,” “Introduction to Philosophy” and “Introduction to Ethics.”
I will not lie and say I enjoyed every aspect of it. For example, just as the students were never eager to take my exams, I was never all that keen about grading them. There is a certain level of subjectivity involved in grading most exams, and I was therefore always concerned about fairness in evaluation. I have always believed that if we could eliminate grades, genuine learning would advance by leaps and bounds!
The fact is, though, I relished the day-to-day contact with the students. For every student who wanted to learn, there was another whose lack of motivation required attention. Teachers in the liberal arts setting generally face the challenge of reaching those who fall on either side of that divide, working hard to facilitate some advancement in knowledge and wisdom for all.
Of course, teaching involves more than the classroom. There are advising responsibilities, committee work, arts and assemblies programs, and extracurricular activities. These I have missed somewhat, but living nearby and being a daily visitor to the campus has enabled me to continue participating in some of these opportunities.
The notion of “missing” some arena of service could imply that one wishes he had never given it up. In that sense, I don’t miss the teaching or other duties. The timing of my retirement was just right. And the fact that I have continued to teach through the Institute for Continuing Learning (ICL) and a Sunday School class at Sharp Memorial Church has satisfied my natural longing to engage in learning, for myself as well as others. I have also remained active through volunteer service, primarily as chair of the Byron Herbert Reece Society. When one remains busy and productive, there is no cause to miss former pursuits.
This I attest: I shall always be thankful for the privilege of returning to my alma mater as both teacher and campus minister—and now a community servant.