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Winter 2009 | Volume 32, Number 1 | Campus

Taking Time Out to Contemplate Beauty

Day of Common Learning

Students take the day to contemplate beauty.

In Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, she writes, “It does not matter a hoot what the mockingbird on the chimney is singing. The real and proper question is: Why is it beautiful?”

On Wednesday, October 15, 2008, Seattle Pacific University invited students, faculty, staff, and visitors from the community to consider the definition, function, and importance of beauty at the seventh annual Day of Common Learning. Nicholas Wolterstorff, emeritus professor of philosophical theology at Yale Divinity School, began the day in which regular classes were suspended for community learning with a keynote address titled “Beauty, Love, Justice, and Worship.”

“What unites these four?” Wolterstorff asked the assembly. They are “fundamentally alike,” he went on to argue. “Treating somebody justly, attending to beauty, worshiping God, and falling in love are … ways of acknowledging the worth or the excellence of somebody or something.”
That afternoon, forums, seminars, and panel presentations led by faculty, staff, and students explored beauty through the lenses of a host of academic disciplines, including psychology, English, physics, art, health sciences, and music.

SPU student Renee Dudley was inspired. “In a university driven by the desire to change the world, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the fervent pursuit of justice,” she says. “But Dr. Wolterstorff reminds us that beauty, love, and worship are equally important. Taking the time to be still, worship God, and acknowledge the beauty around us will ultimately give us the energy to seek justice wholeheartedly.”

Senior Lindsay Morris attended “The Beauty and Justice of Physics, the Physics of Justice and Beauty,” a joint presentation by Douglas Thorpe, professor of English, and Stamatis Vokos, professor of physics. “If only every day of school could be like the Day of Common Learning,” she says, “I would never want to graduate and have to leave SPU. … It is always fascinating to me to see what fascinates my professors.

“I am tremendously blessed to be an SPU student because of professors such as Dr. Vokos and Dr. Thorpe, who are in love with learning.”

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Department Highlights

Science Lessons
SPU receives a five-year $3.7 million grant from the NSF.

Environmental Art Creates Community
Sculptures by students brought together a neighborhood.

Record Enrollment Led by Graduate Students
Autumn Quarter 2008 saw the largest, most diverse student body ever come to campus.

Can Reconciliation Be Taught?
Grants are allowing student teachers to increase intercultural competency.

Taking Time Out to Contemplate Beauty
The Day of Common Learning explored the importance of beauty.

SPU Staff Member Joins Ceremony at C.S. Lewis Home
The Kilns received status as a historic site after major renovation.

Tom Box Becomes Advancement VP
Longtime SPU athletic director returns to role in fundraising and development.

New Academic Programs Take a Global View
Two majors emerge out of SPU’s signature commitment to practice radical reconciliation.

A Tool to Help Prevent Falls
Nursing students received notice for creating DVD aimed at aiding senior adults.

Separating Fact From Fiction About the Brain
Dr. John Medina’s new book gives readers “brain rules” for home, work, and school.