Like the prophet Daniel, I could see the handwriting on the wall with respect to my future at Regent, so I began to seek another position.I wanted to teach in a place where I could unite wholeheartedly with the overall mission. Patrick Henry College (PHC) had begun in 2000, the same year as the Regent upheavals. The founding father of the college, Michael Farris, was a lawyer who had also founded the Home School Legal Defense Association. I knew the college had a deep commitment to teaching both history and government, so it seemed to be a perfect fit, considering I am also a strong believer in homeschooling. Although nothing seemed to be available, the Lord opened a door that had appeared to be closed.
I jumped into the activities even before the fall semester began. During the preceding summer, I took on the responsibility of directing an extensive camp program for highschoolers, most of whom were being homeschooled. I also taught history camps for the first two years of my time there.
Throughout my five years at PHC, I had some of the most prepared college students a professor could want at the undergraduate level. So, in that respect, even though I changed course from graduate-level teaching to undergraduate, the difference was slight. Many were eager learners, and I connected with them immediately.
It was also at this time, in 2001, that my book on the Clinton impeachment became a main selection in the Conservative Book Club. While at Regent, I had interviewed all thirteen of the congressmen who argued in the Senate for Clinton’s removal from office. Although all the work on the book was carried out at Regent, it was published as I started at PHC. C-SPAN came to PHC to record me talking about the book; it appeared on C-SPAN’s Book TV program a number of times. One organization had me autograph a few hundred copies to send its donors.
I also revised my doctoral dissertation on Noah Webster that had been published in hardback when I first started at Indiana Wesleyan. It came out in a paperback version in 2003 and also was offered in the same book club. Both books led to a number of radio interviews, including the Janet Parshall program. Things were looking up academically.
I enjoyed teaching these students, and I had other opportunities as well. I led donors to the college on a teaching tour of part of the Boston Freedom Trail. Our proximity to DC allowed me to teach some sessions in the Capitol to a group of Christians working either for congressmen or in other government offices. I did that for about a month for each of three years. It was kind of nice to be able to pull up at the Capitol and park my car right outside, then go in to the Speaker’s dining room for those sessions. It felt productive.
I recall other highlights: taking a group of students, nearly impromptu, down to Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg, which was a four-hour drive each way (I almost lost one of those students in Williamsburg); having my office door blocked entirely by tissue boxes, a gift from a student who says she always cried when she came to my office (although I don’t remember her crying as much as she says she did); the student who showed up in my office one day with a tea set to offer me afternoon tea.
Another treasure was the many times I was asked to speak in chapel. The Lord always seemed to give me something special to say on those days. One day, as chapel was ending (I was not the speaker that day), I walked out before it was completely over, only to have a student come running after me, telling me I had to return. When I went back in, they called me up front to give me the entire Calvin and Hobbes two-volume comics collection. I used those comics so often in my presentations, they students decided I needed to have them all at my disposal. I was nearly speechless; it was a special gift.
For reasons I won’t go into here, I left PHC after my fifth year. Shortly before my departure, a student came to my office and told me I was needed in the lunchroom. When I arrived, they had a few going-away presents for me–videos produced and directed by one talented film enthusiast and a plastic, blowup space alien. There’s a background story for that one, but it would lose too much in the telling to make sense to those who hadn’t been there. Suffice to say, it was appropriate, related to an ongoing joke that stemmed from one of my comments in class. The students had written messages all over that alien. I still have it today.
Although I am no longer at PHC, I still pray for its effectiveness as the faculty there prepare students to make a difference in literature, history, journalism, and government. I respect what they do; they do it well.
My journey through the many winding paths of my teaching ministry is almost at its end. Tomorrow I’ll talk about where God has led me now.