Gerard Manley Hopkins begins one of his most famous poems with the line: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” E. E. Cummings begins one of his with “i thank you God for most this amazing day.” And Mary Oliver one of hers with “My work is loving the world.” I didn’t know these poems as a child, but they articulate the wide-eyed wonder and affection I have always felt toward creation, culture, ideas, and people. I expect that many of you reading this feel the same. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to explore the world, either in person or through the printed word, in order to experience it and understand it. And I have always been glad for companions along the way, chief among them my wife, Kim, an artist and art educator.
I also had good teachers. My mom was a Kansas farm girl and nurse who liked few things better than walking through our woods in southern Missouri, reading books to her boys, or hosting dinner-parties for friends and strangers. My father was a music professor (and former Rocky Mountain trail guide), who kept a Steinway grand piano in our front room and took our family on annual summer tours across North America with the music group he directed. Their deepest desires, however, bent toward helping their three sons and others to know, love, and worship God. The weaving of these various threads of nature and nurture formed my general posture of grateful receptivity toward the world and nurtured my love of theology, ethics, and history; literature, art, and music; creation, church, and academy.
These loves were subsequently refined and deepened by various academic communities across three countries: Ozark Christian College, Regent College, Cair Paravel Latin School, Oxford University, and, now, the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University. C. S. Lewis compared lovers, who stand face to face looking at each other, with friends, who stand shoulder to shoulder looking together at their common objects of love. Whether I’ve lived in the Midwest, Canada’s West Coast, the U.K., or now the East Coast, I have found friends with whom to stand shoulder to shoulder. And I am grateful.
Thus I am deeply pleased now to be folded into the Templeton Honors College. I am also more than a little humbled to join the list of deans who preceded me and created the rich culture and traditions that animate the College: Allen Guelzo, Chris Hall, Jonathan Yonan, and interim Dean, Walt Huddell. For almost twenty years, the deans, faculty, students, staff, and friends of Templeton have gathered around the Good, True, Beautiful, Honorable, Noble, and Just—the kinds of things St. Paul suggested we think about, whenever and wherever we find them.
However, we live in a fractured and disordered world. We see it, feel it, and contribute to it in our own ways. Even so, part of the work of the Honors College is to recognize that despite its chaos and confusion, the world is still charged with the grandeur of God because, as Hopkins goes on to write, “the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.” In the Honors College, we help each other attend to those ‘bright wings’ that flutter grace through the night sky. We care not only that our students and alumni flourish, but also the families, churches, cultures, and polities they help create. Cum gratia officium. Our work is loving the world.
And so the work of the Honors College continues: through the high school Summer Scholars Program, through the Undergraduate Great Book Program, and starting next summer, through a Master of Arts in Classical Teaching. This is good work, indeed, and I am glad to be a part of it.
My wife and our three children—Ilia, Brecon, and Maeve—will soon be joining me here in Pennsylvania, and together we look forward to meeting each of you in the Honors College family and hearing about your work of loving the world.
Dr. Brian Williams is the Dean of the Templeton Honors College.