After more than twenty years of teaching biblical languages at Western Theological Seminary, Associate Professor Dawn Boelkins is retiring at the end of the 2016-17 academic year. To say that she will be missed only scratches the surface of what her gifts and presence have meant to students, colleagues, staff, and administration.
The ordination liturgy for Ministers of Word and Sacrament in the RCA charges those being ordained to “attend to reading, prayer, study, preaching, and teaching,” and to “not neglect the gift that is in you.” Since her ordination to that office in 1987, Dawn has devoted herself to living out every aspect of that charge. A graduate of both Western’s M.Div. and D.Min. degree programs, Dawn has played an integral part in the work and culture of Western Theological Seminary, teaching Hebrew and Greek in both the on-campus and distance learning programs. Her students laud her for her creativity and compassion, crediting her with opening God’s Word to them in unexpected and invaluable ways.
Dawn’s own sense of calling and satisfaction in her teaching is glimpsed in her response to a question about what it’s like to teach required language courses: “Generally, students approach the biblical languages with some trepidation. I beckon them past their uncertainties into the humbling, exhilarating, and spiritually rewarding discipline of biblical translation and interpretation.” One of her greatest joys, she says, is seeing the “lights go on” for her students in this regard. She also highlights the rich sense of collegiality she has experienced in participating in the Hebrew program, which has undergone many innovative changes during her years on the teaching team.
When asked to reflect on what has given her the most joy in her time at WTS, Dawn identifies her role in the committee that redesigned Mulder Chapel. The practical and theological joined hands in a powerful way for her on this committee. The end result, she says, was “an opportunity to see the Word made flesh” in a wonderful way.
You will be deeply missed, Dawn! Thank you for tending so faithfully both to your own gifts and to the gifts of your students. May God bless you richly in the coming years as you have indeed blessed us.
—Dr. Carol Bechtel
In their words…
In Hebrew class I loved when you would gather us in a circle to have a “lovely little theological discussion.” You always created a safe and holy space for us to share our perceptions and ideas about what we were learning. …Thank you for offering yourself and your gifts of language, teaching, music, worship, and creativity to the church, the seminary, and to students like me who are now ready to take all we have learned and go out to share God’s blessing to those we encounter along the way.
At faculty meetings I often saw you as a model, showing us how to ask honest and probing questions while holding to your convictions, even if you were the only one to vote a certain direction. I loved it when you were willing to be the only “no” or “yes” vote!
—Dr. J. Todd BIllings
As one who struggled with Greek, your care and skill opened the door to the beauty of the language, and how it can help reveal God’s character to us.
I will never look again at Greek or Hebrew with the fear and frustration I had living within me when I walked into my first class with you. …I am an improved student of the Word because you showed me how to research to understand the narrative in light of God’s redemptive plan, and not just to get the language right.
In Hebrew class, you named me Rav Chesed—steadfast loving kindness. As an attribute of God, it is used again and again in scripture, and each mention of it brings to light the depths of not only who God is, but helps me realize more fully who I am in God. What a gift! I will truly cherish it the rest of my life.
Teaching on the Hebrew team has been one of the greatest joys of my life and has lent such meaning and purpose to my work. …Thank you for giving yourself to the team for so many years, for laughing with us at all our mistakes (and sharing yours so we could both laugh and learn from them. …Thank you for being not just a delightful colleague, but a dear friend.