Religion professor to teach in his 13th country


    Jack Hill needs a third hand.

    The religion professor cannot name all of the countries in which he has taught or researched on only 10 fingers.

    Adding to his travel register this September, Hill plans to begin a sixth-month stay in Aberdeen, Scotland funded by a teaching and researching grant he has received from the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Hill said the trip will be his fourth stay in Scotland in the past eight years.

    After three decades of research and travel, Hill has chosen to write a book about the moral philosophy of Adam Ferguson, an 18th century Scottish philosopher. He said he hopes this trip to Scotland will allow him to write two of the book’s five chapters.

    “[The book] will be the only place that brings together all of the known portraits and sketches that relate to Ferguson,” Hill said. “That way, you have a geographical angle on interpreting what he’s about as a philosopher.”

    Ferguson promoted virtuous political involvement by the upper class in a society where the wealthy tended to avoid politics, according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

    Hill tied these ideas to modern society and to the university mission statement, which mentions ethical leadership and responsible citizenship.

    “His whole notion about life is that it’s active, passionate engagement in fulfilling your civic duties,” Hill said. “You’ve got to be a responsible citizen."

    After this trip to Scotland, Hill said he might apply his research to TCU by encouraging more integration of academic programs. The University of Aberdeen groups its history, philosophy and divinity departments into one school, which Hill said is a truer meaning of liberal arts than segregating the subjects.

    David Grant, a religion professor, said the whole department is thrilled about Hill’s trip. Hill’s knowledge of other cultures and how Christianity works into those contexts enriches discussion, Grant said.

    “Even in department meetings, he can remind us that we’re looking at things from a very European, privileged position,” Grant said. “Since he has actually lived in situations where he dealt with those who are not as privileged, that just brings a wonderful dimension to the discussion.”

    Increasing this mutual understanding between different countries forms the basis of the Fulbright Program, according to its website. Senator J. William Fulbright began the program in 1946 to encourage world peace after World War II.

    According to the website, the program now sends approximately 800 professors to foreign countries each year and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.

    Hill promotes the Fulbright ideals by teaching religion holistically and not imposing his own opinions, said Alex Tomlinson, a sophomore strategic communication major and one of Hill's students.

    “He’s really wise and open to all sorts of ideas when it comes to religion, not just by-the-book examples,” Tomlinson said. “He tells a lot of unique stories because he has experienced a lot of these religions.”

    Hill is expected to return from Scotland next March, and he said he hopes to finish his book by fall 2015.

    That may not be the end of his travels. After Ferguson, Hill said he might like to continue his research of Scottish philosophy by John Millar, one of Ferguson’s contemporaries.

    If so, Hill might need to start counting countries on his toes as well.

    Check the Google Map below with descriptions of the 13 countries in which Hill has taught or researched: 

    View Jack Hill's 13 Countries in a larger map

    Take a virtual tour of the University of Aberdeen.