Tuesday, January 25, 2011

*J. Seelye Bixler

J. Seelye Bixler
President Emeritus
Colby College

It is always hard to put one's finger on the special qualities which distinguish the conspicuously great teacher, but in Macintosh's case I think it was simply the fact that he knew so much and talked about it so well. 

We recognized his prodigious scholarship and we responded to the marvelous luminousness of his presentation.  His classroom produced no fireworks.  He used no tricks of the trade or artificial stimulants to arouse our interest. he was reserved in manner, detached and seemingly almost shy. But what he said produced a tremendous effect.  Our minds responded to its range and accuracy, but what is interesting to look back on is that our hearts responded as well.  This is not only the real thing, we said to ourselves, but it is real for us, what we have wanted to know, representing what we have longed to achieve. It came home to us personally also in that it showed us what we could look forward to.  If these seemingly esoteric truths in all their formidable complexity could be made intelligible in this way and, so to speak, laid on the table before us, then there was a hope that we ourselves with our lesser abilities, might penetrate to their secrets in our own way. In spite of his quiet manner, Mac's classroom thus produced a drama that was unforgettable.

Of course he was not only a scholar.  His control of his material was such as to enable him to treat it creatively.  because he was an original thinker with a standpoint of his own his criticisms of our ideas had a sharp cutting edge.  We respected his empirical method and the theology it led to but it is interesting to think back on the fact that it challenged us instead of converting us.  We were devoted disciples of the man but we tried to express our devotion in following ideas of our own  --- risky as this might be.

Objective as he was and seemingly detached, as I have hinted, there was never any question of his intense interest in us as persons and his concern that we should have the best he could provide.  We loved him because we knew he loved us.

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