I Owe, I Owe

It was a squeaker, but it worked. I promised my editor I’d deliver the manuscript for Fundamentalist U by Monday, and I just mailed it in today. Coupla days to spare. Whew!

If I were cooler, I would copy Brendan Pietsch’s world’s-coolest acknowledgements page. But I’m not. I’ve accumulated a bunch of debts—financial, intellectual, and otherwise—and I feel a need to express my gratitude the ol-fashioned way.

pietsch acknowledgements

How the cool kids do it these days…

First, the Spencer Foundation footed the bill. Their program for small research grants allowed me to spend the academic year 2014-2015 working full time on this book. I was able to travel to six of the schools I’ve been studying. Without this grant, I would never have been able to put this book together. Thank you Lyle!

There are plenty of other people that also made the book possible. Most important, the archivists at the schools I visited often bent over backward to help me find materials. At Biola, for example, Stacie Schmidt and Sue Whitehead allowed me to work right in their office. They also helped me get permission to use some of the cartoons from Biola’s periodicals that will appear in the book.

At Wheaton, Keith Call helped me find a ton of stuff. He also spent time sharing with me his one-of-a-kind experience with and knowledge of the world of evangelical higher ed. Since my visit, too, he has kept me in the loop about some of the goings-on at Wheaton and elsewhere.

Robert Shuster at the Billy Graham Center kept the room open late for me and helped me dig through the vast resources of their oral history collections. I depended on those oral histories to find out what life was like at fundamentalist colleges for students.

Down South at Bob Jones University, Patrick Robbins over-extended himself to help me locate materials. He has been doing so for years and I’m extremely grateful.

In Chicago, Corie Zylstra and Nikki Tochalauski allowed me to linger late in the Moody Bible Institute archives. They also shared their experiences as students and workers at the most famous Bible Institute in the world.

Even at schools I couldn’t visit in person, friendly archivists were willing to spend time and energy talking to me about my research. At the late Tennessee Temple University, for example, Keith Woodruff took time and risked carpal tunnel syndrome emailing back and forth with me.

One of my local schools, Summit University (the former Baptist Bible of PA) let me use their terrific collections of fundamentalist and evangelical periodicals.

It didn’t work, but I appreciate the efforts of two of my academic heroes, Jon Zimmerman and Ron Numbers, to try to help me get an additional fellowship to fund my work on this book.

And when it came to the book itself, my fellow nerds helped me out enormously. Most especially, Tim Gloege and Dan Williams read several parts of the book and helped me with their enormous expertise. I also conned a group of A-list experts to help me improve the book. The book covers a lot of territory, so I shamelessly braced friends, acquaintances, and even people I only knew by reputation.

First, I reached out to higher-ed historians such as Roger Geiger, Christopher Loss, and Ethan Schrum. The book also wrestles with questions of the nature of conservative evangelical Protestantism, so I asked Molly Worthen, John Fea, Bill Trollinger, and Brendan Pietsch for expert help. There’s a lot about creationism in there, too, and Ron Numbers and Michael Lienesch agreed to read sections and point out my blunders. Then, of course, there are the group of experts specifically in the history of evangelical higher education and I asked them all for their time: Jared Burkholder, Michael Hamilton, and Chris Gehrz. To top it all off, I also pestered other smart people I knew to give me their opinions, including L. Herbert Siewert, Tim Lacy, and David Bernstein.

Thanks to all…but that’s not all. I’m also grateful to all the SAGLRROILYBYGTH for taking part in our conversations about evangelicalism, college, fundamentalism, conservatism, and etc. etc. etc. over the past few years.

What happens next?

It will still be a while before the book hits shelves. The folks at Oxford will give my manuscript some copy-editing. Then they’ll put together a set of proofs, set as the actual pages will look. Once we get to that stage, I’ll pore over the proofs to write my index.

It all takes time and patience. When will the book finally be published? Hard to say exactly, but it’s usually about twelve to eighteen months. I’ll keep you posted.

I Hart Lyle Spencer

I want to shout it from the rooftops. I love this man!

Mr. Spencer, I Love You.

Mr. Spencer, I Love You.

Thanks to his Spencer Foundation, I’ll be able to spend the next year traveling to archives to research my new book. My grant from the Spencer Foundation will fund my trips to a variety of evangelical colleges. I’m looking forward to diving into the world-class collection at the Billy Graham Center Archives, for example.

My goal in this book is to explore the history of evangelical higher education in the twentieth century. What did schools such as Wheaton College, Bob Jones University, Biola University, Bryan College, John Brown University, and a host of others hope to teach their students? Most interesting, since the emergence of “fundamentalism” in the 1920s, how did these colleges try to teach their students what it meant to be an evangelical Christian in a rapidly secularizing America?

Naturally, these questions changed over time. In the 1920s, for example, the first decade of “fundamentalism,” evangelists and evangelical intellectuals struggled to define what it meant to be a “fundamentalist.” For Bob Jones, it meant eschewing many of the outward trappings of modern life as well as cultivating a Bible-first way of knowledge. For President Blanchard of Wheaton College, it meant more of a theological steadfastness.

By the late 1940s, the world of conservative evangelicalism had changed radically. I want to explore the ways these changes emerged on evangelical campuses. What would it mean for a family in 1950 to choose to send their sons or daughters to “evangelical” Wheaton instead of “fundamentalist” Bob Jones? Or to Biola instead of one of the growing crop of non-religious colleges, including my own beloved Binghamton University (founded 1948)?

Each new generation offers new topics. Moving into the late 1960s, conservative colleges experienced a very different “Sixties.” I’m interested in exploring the ways evangelical students and faculty developed a counter-counter-culture. And in the late 1970s, the emergence of a “New Christian Right” in mainstream American politics was both fueled and influenced by developments in evangelical higher education.

Central to all these investigations will be the experience of students and faculty at evangelical colleges. Luckily, the archives of all these schools have rich collections of their own students’ experiences. At the Billy Graham Center Archives, a host of oral history interviews also tracks the school memories of evangelicals from across the decades.

Thanks to the Spencer Foundation, I’ll be able to devote the next year to full-time research. For readers who are unaware of the Foundation, it is the best thing going in education research. I’m not saying that only because of my generous grant. Every academic knows about the Spencer Foundation’s programs, including its dissertation fellowship and its postdoctoral fellowship. In my case, a postdoc from the Spencer Foundation and National Academy of Education allowed me to complete two books, my 1920s book and my upcoming one about educational conservatism in the twentieth century.

So I say it with unabashed enthusiasm: I Love Lyle!