By Anna Meurer
Dr. Jack Birdwhistell, affectionately known by students and faculty alike as “Doc,” has been part of the Georgetown community for so long that he said, “Georgetown is now in my DNA.” He completed his undergraduate degree here from 1964-1968 and then went on to obtain his Ph.D. at Southern Seminary.
After spending a few years as a pastor of a Baptist church in Drakesboro, Ky., Doc returned to serve as the college’s campus minister from 1980-1997. Though his responsibilities mostly included chapel services, mission trips, worship and fund raising, he also taught one or two courses each semester and he said, “[A]s the years went by, I enjoyed my teaching more and more.” In 1997, he was invited to join the religion department faculty, where he has served since. Reflecting back on his journey to Georgetown, he said, “I’m ever grateful to the folks who took a chance on me then, especially President Ben M. Elrod.”
Currently, Doc teaches New Testament courses and Christian history electives, one of which—Christian Heritage—is his own design. According to Doc, “Over the years my aims have been two: 1) to acquaint students with the basic information concerning Christian scripture and Christian history; and 2) to let them know that, whatever their background, Christianity is a vast enterprise, containing within it many ‘worlds,’ each of which has value.”
If student opinion is anything to go by, he’s been quite successful. His Christian Heritage class, of which he teaches multiple sections, very rarely has spots open at the end of registration, and it is not uncommon to hear him listed as a favorite professor or mentor.
Doc is also infamous as a supplier of books. He frequently stocks the free book table in the Chapel basement and hands out copies of religious journals in class. Chances are, if you have an interest in religion, Doc has a book for you, from a Vulgate to a copy of Diarmaid MacCulloch’s bestselling history of Christianity (this writer’s prized acquisition).
Recently, Doc has also worked to reach out to the off-campus GC community through his efforts with the Georgetown College Religion Facebook page, which is now at 272 members of student, faculty and alumni. The group serves as a forum for sharing news about the college, catching up with alums, sharing memories—a recent session focused on tests—and sharing interesting religion articles.
Though he’s been here for 34 years, Doc said, “I still recognize the faces of my classmates who began in 1964 in the faces of our current students—joyous, eager, open and, certainly, more adventurous.” When asked what he sees for Georgetown’s future, he said, “Our college is at a real turning point now, but the combination of excellent academics, Christian ethos, leadership opportunities and fun which we offer should carry us over the coming decades! I certainly hope so.”