An Enduring Legacy of History at Gordon
In a year marked by events almost certain to earn a chapter in textbooks—pandemic, a presidential election and national unrest—Gordon College has affirmed the importance of historical study by establishing the Loring-Phillips Endowed Professorship in History. A generous gift from the Loring family complements the existing Stephen Phillips Chair of History to fully fund this faculty position. The position will be held by Dr. Jennifer Hevelone-Harper ’92, a member of Gordon’s history department for 21 years.
“We are thrilled to honor and celebrate the work and dedication of Dr. Jennifer Hevelone-Harper as the inaugural holder of the Loring-Phillips Endowed Professorship in History,” says Dean of Faculty Sandy Doneski ’93. “Her teaching and research in the development of Christian thought will continue to impact our students and the academy in the years to come.”
“Our family is pleased to lend our support to establishing the Loring-Phillips Chair in History to ensure and encourage the continued study of history at Gordon College,” says Caleb Loring III, whose love for history was first inspired by his father. “Being a history major in college, I came to understand how important the study of history was in informing our present in order to build constructively toward the future, hoping to avoid the mistakes of the past—something that seems important at this time.”
Whether Hevelone-Harper is introducing first-year students to Constantine’s Byzantium in Historical Perspectives on Culture, Belief and Civilization or teaching an advanced seminar on sixth-century ascetics wandering through Palestinian deserts, she weaves in timeless lessons and tools to understand more than just the past.
“We are trapped in the present and we have nothing to compare it to if we don’t use history,” she says. “You can’t see what’s coming in the future, but in order to get some kind of vantage point over where we are right now in the present, we can hold up the past to give us multiple perspectives. History gives us a vantage point for assessing, critiquing or responding to events in our own time.”
Hevelone-Harper believes this ability is critical for Gordon students, who she says must “think holistically about life” and “be able to connect the broad events and understand the bigger picture” as disciples of a liberal arts education. But even more than being part of a well-rounded academic palate, she says history is vital to Christian faith.
“All Christians are historians,” she says. “You’ve made commitments for your life based on particular historical events in the revelation of Scripture and the life of Jesus Christ. So, we have to care about historical evidence and historical events and the reality of history if we’re going to say that’s the ultimate reality for our life and our future beyond life.”
Looking toward the immediate future, Hevelone-Harper anticipates many opportunities through the recently combined Political Science, Philosophy and History Department, and is thrilled to imagine what is in store thanks to the Lorings’ gift.
“The Loring family has been very generous to Gordon and also to history over the years,” she says. “I love the legacy—two different families who care enough about history at Gordon to make that big investment. As a historian, every time I see a name on a building, a chair or a scholarship, I remember there are people behind that story who think, ‘This is a priority.’ There are a lot of things they can give their money to, but to choose history at Gordon is so important.”