Photo Friday: A Teacher and a Scholar

Luke L. Keefer Jr. teaches a course at Ashland Theological Seminary, the institution at which this Brethren in Christ theologian and church historian spent the majority of his career. (Courtesy of ATS)

Luke L. Keefer Jr. teaches a course at Ashland Theological Seminary, the institution at which this Brethren in Christ theologian and church historian spent the majority of his career. (Courtesy of ATS)

A few weeks ago I finalized the page proofs for my forthcoming biography of Luke and Doris Keefer. So I thought it perfectly fitting that today’s Photo Friday installment should further preview this soon-to-be-published book by focusing on my treatment of Luke’s work as a college and seminary professor.

In the biography, I dedicate an entire chapter to Luke’s teaching career, focusing specifically on his contributions to the intellectual life at Messiah College (1971-1987) and Ashland Theological Seminary (1987-2008). While I detail Luke’s work at each of these institutions, his fellow faculty members’ reminiscences of him, and his favored courses, I spend the last part of the chapter focusing on a set of key questions: What qualities and habits made him an effective professor? What giftings made him a cherished adviser?

While you’ll have to wait until the biography comes out next month to read the full results, here’s part of the answer:

Most obviously, Luke’s success in the classroom stemmed from his being a gifted teacher – a skill he honed over many years. Former students describe Luke’s instruction as “excellent,” “engaging,” and “Spirit-led.” In his church history courses, Luke made the material “come alive.” He had an extensive — even encyclopedic — knowledge of the subject matter; thus he lectured in great detail and with comprehensiveness. But more than that, Luke had an ability to move beyond dry recitation of fact into deeper levels of meaning and connection. Rob Douglass, who had Luke as a professor before becoming his pastor and faculty colleague, suggests that Luke wasn’t so much “lecturing” in his church history courses as he was “recounting family stories.” Jason Barnhart credits him with an ability to “craft [his extensive] knowledge into some larger story that captivated his students.” Perhaps this ability to “captivate” in the classroom helps to explain why so many students commend him for instilling in them a love of history.

Of course, Luke’s lectures were not perfect; even though they were well laid out, he had a habit of departing from them to pursue theological “bunny trails” that sometimes led his students onto unrelated topics. Nevertheless, some appreciated this quality in him: former student Teresa Davis recalls fondly that Luke “would depart a little from the topic [at hand] and speak so eloquently and beautifully about a truth that had just come into his mind.”

Readers: Did any of you have Luke Keefer as a professor? If so, what qualities do you think made him a great teacher? Share below!

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About Devin Manzullo-Thomas

Father to Lucas. Husband to Katie. Prof and administrator at Messiah College. PhD student at Temple University. Member of Grantham BIC.
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2 Responses to Photo Friday: A Teacher and a Scholar

  1. Karen Deyhle says:

    His style of teaching was very clear, and always showed his lessons were well thought out and prepared. He really listened to the questions or answers from the students. He would break out into his grin, or even a hearty laugh, when a humorous point was made…whether he made it or it was from a student. In my 20’s I had him as a college professor, in my 50’s as a BIC Core Course teacher. I felt blessed to have him as a teacher again. My husband and I have been friends with the Keefers for many years. When Luke died, I thought how great was the loss for the church, and realized that we also suffered a personal loss.

  2. Pingback: The Final Proofs Are In! | The Search for Piety and Obedience

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