Brite recognizes beloved professor at Spring Celebration

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    There is no argument among the Brite Divinity School that Dr. David J. Gouwens is its professor of the year. 

    At Thursday’s Spring Celebration, Gouwens was honored by students and faculty. The awards ceremony in the Robert Carr Chapel recognized honorable students and faculty members.

    Gouwens was showered with appreciation after he won the “Louise Clark Brittan Endowed Memorial Faculty Award,” given out by the student body, and the “Catherine Saylor Hill Endowed Faculty Excellence Award,” chosen by fellow faculty members.

    Cameron Navarro is an administrative assistant for Brite admissions and works for some of the faculty members, including Gouwens. He said Gouwens’ gentle and approachable demeanor made him a well-respected member of the Brite community.

    “It is very obvious around here that the students love him in the way that a great teacher is always kind of loved and revered,” Navarro said.

    Gouwens is retiring at the end of the spring semester after working at Brite for 32 years.

    “On one hand, I am looking forward to retirement because I have more books to write and research to do; but I am also going to miss the opportunity that Brite has given me over the past 32 years,” said Gouwens, who received his doctorate at Yale University.

    Brite student Will Ryan introduced the student-nominated award with a short anecdote about Gouwens’ tough but inspiring teaching habits. Ryan said his friend took Gouwens’ class one semester; on the last day of class, instead of congratulating him on completing the course, Gouwens asked the student to email him because he had a good source he could use in his essays.

    “A teacher even until the last day,” Ryan said.

    Gouwens said his retirement was “bittersweet.” He said the things he will miss most are the students and the classroom — his “first love.”

    “I am so grateful to the students here and so grateful for the opportunity to introduce them to theology as a way of thinking, but also as a way of living that will shape their entire lives,” Gouwens said.

    The luncheon following the ceremony celebrated Gouwens’ retirement. Dean Joretta Marshall asked students to share one word they thought described Gouwens.

    “People spoke to me personally and shared with me how my work with them has made a difference, and that was very meaningful for me,” Gouwens said.

    Faculty members also voted to honor him as an emeritus retired professor.

    “He is definitely a member of the community and not just a professor,” Navarro said.

    Gouwens also announced a new scholarship for students in his name. The David J. Gouwens Legacy Ministerial Education Fund is hoping to raise $50,000 to be distributed to students demonstrating a passion in ministry.

    “Brite has given me great gifts, and now the bitter part… and that’s bringing this to a conclusion,” Gouwens said.