Celebrating our Retiring ‘Scribbler on the ’Teuch’

During a night of Fiddler on the Roof parodies, Old Testament one-liners, Yiddish slang, Hebrew prayers and words from friends, the Gordon community celebrated the retirement of Dr. Marv Wilson (biblical studies and Christian ministries) with a tribute program to honor his 55-plus years at Gordon.

During those years, Dr. Wilson did many things. He wrote Our Father Abraham. He worked as an Old Testament translator and editor of the NIV Bible. He assisted Gerald Krell in the making of a documentary inspired by Our Father Abraham called “Christians and Jews: A Journey of Faith.” He created a field trip course called Modern Jewish Culture, which became a model for interfaith education. And he and his wife, Polly ’55, dedicated their lives to building bridges of understanding between Jewish and Christian communities—earning deep respect from the Jewish community in Greater Boston and New England.

So, in honor of Dr. Wilson’s love for the Jewish people and our shared Hebraic heritage, much of last Thursday’s celebration unfolded in the spirit of Hebrew tradition with the telling of stories, the singing of songs, and a good ol’ fashion roast by none other than Dr. Wilson’s longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Roger Green (biblical studies), professor emeritus. Dr. Green poked fun at Gordon’s beloved mensch by sharing some of Dr. Wilson’s quirks, namely his technophobia—which the Biblical Studies Department playfully spotlighted in giving Dr. Wilson a “gold-plated” overhead projector as his retirement present.

During the celebration, there were many thanks and stories shared by President D. Michael Lindsay, Provost Janel Curry, Bruce Herman (art), Jewish filmmaker Gerald Krell, former student and teaching assistant Kristin Heacock-Sanders ’05, former first lady Jan Carlberg, and students from Dr. Wilson’s last Modern Jewish culture class.

In addition to the “gold-plated” overhead projector, Dr. Wilson and Polly were also given a small custom drawing from Bruce Herman (art) to complement their home, along with symbolic roses and five enormous scrapbooks containing hundreds and hundreds of letters, memories and photos sent in by students, alumni and faculty. The Gordon community also gathered a sum of $105,000 to donate to the College in honor of Marv—half of which was given for scholarship support.

In many of these stories about Dr. Wilson, Polly is there—in a classroom, on a field trip, in Israel on a Holy Land pilgrimage, or at home praying with him every day before he went off to teach. Over the years, Polly’s presence and wisdom has meant a lot to students.

“We all signed up for [Modern Jewish Culture] to study under Dr. Wilson . . . What we did not anticipate was the blessing of getting to know Dr. Wilson’s wife, Polly,” said Kathryn (Katie) Willeman ’18, a student in Dr. Wilson’s last Modern Jewish Culture class. “From playing piano so that we could learn to sing in Hebrew to respectfully interjecting during Dr. Wilson’s lectures, adding a story or detail he might have missed . . . She truly showed us how to honor the gospel and the image of God in others.”

To round out the evening with a musical tribute to Dr. Wilson titled Scribbler on the ‘Teuch (Pentateuch) inspired by the play Dr. Wilson has seen 28 times, Fiddler on the Roof, Mark Stevick (creative writing), Jasmine Myers ’11 and Carl Schultz ’13 transformed the original musical with their lyrical slight-of-hand—turning “Tradition,” “Matchmaker,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Sabbath Prayer” into rich, allusive parodies.

Even in song and word, it’s hard to convey just how much Dr. Wilson and Polly have meant to Gordon’s community, but Roger Green said it best.

“Tevye sings ‘If I Were a Rich Man’ in Fiddler on the Roof and then imagines all of things he’d be able to do were his dream to come true . . . If Marv Wilson were all of a sudden to become a rich man . . . he could not provide any more from those riches than he has already done by simply being Marv Wilson. Marv Wilson is already a rich man. This day is a living tribute to such a truth.”


To catch up on the speeches and parodies honoring Dr. Wilson and Polly, watch the tribute and community celebration online.