Dr. Frederic Clarke Putnam is well-known around the Eastern University campus. Some people recognize him by his tidy ponytail, others by the scooter which is his preferred mode of transportation, others for his enthusiasm for art and architecture, or for his ready appeal to great poetry to illustrate almost any point, or for his easy professionalism with biblical Greek and Hebrew. In all of these areas, “Mr. P,” as he is known by his students, tends to stand out.
And now he will stand out at Eastern University for a good, long time. On May 22, 2017, the Eastern University Board of Trustees granted tenure to Dr. Putnam, in recognition of his outstanding work at the university since his arrival in Saint Davids in the Fall of 2012.
But it takes more than good scholarship to enter into the long-term relationship known as “tenure” at Eastern University. Along with scholarly productivity, Eastern’s requirements for tenure include things like exemplary spiritual modeling and nurturing of students; consistent skill and achievement as a classroom teacher; and effective collegial engagement with faculty peers, administrative associates, etc., that makes a valued contribution to the larger academic community at the University. In all of these areas, Mr. P has excelled.
Colleagues who expressed support for his tenure described their special appreciation for Mr. P’s innovative approach to education, which shows signs (according to one colleague) of “pedagogical genius” — and which follows a text-focused, discussion-based format that is ideal for the Honors College with its Great Books curriculum. Mr. P was also recognized for his extraordinary personal commitment to students, and to their formation as whole persons (“Where does he get the time?” asked one incredulous colleague), as well as Mr. P’s impressive record of formal scholarship. Mr. P has also produced a wide array of publications, lectures, sermons, and speeches in popular venues, in order to embody his commitment to making a nuanced understanding of God’s truth available to all of God’s people. Faculty members also commended Mr. P’s laudable reputation among colleagues and students alike for respect, compassion, creativity, and gentleness—qualities that bring out the best in everyone in a learning community.
One student ably summed up Mr. P’s personal presence at Eastern University by describing him simply as “a gentleman of the highest order.” The Board of Trustees clearly agreed and therefore honors Mr. P with the granting of tenure. When creative pedagogy, deep love of students and colleagues, and demonstrable intellectual acuity can come together with a surpassing degree of “gentlemanliness,” something important is taking place. Eastern University evidently wants it to keep taking place for many years to come.
Dr. Steven Boyer is a professor in the Honors College and Eastern University’s Theology department, and teaches the Introduction to Theology course in the Templeton curriculum.