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Summer 2005 | Volume 28, Number 2 | Faculty

Joy in Mudville

Two-time Weter Award Winner Contrasts “the American Dream” and Biblical Hope

Renowned throughout Washington state for his presentations on the history of baseball, Bill Woodward began the 2005 Winifred E. Weter Faculty Award Lecture by doffing his jacket, donning an old-time baseball cap, and delivering a rousing rendition of the poem, “Casey at the Bat.”

“Baseball’s story, I like to say, is an epic of biblical proportions,” says historian and baseball enthusiast Bill Woodward.

“Like the American dream,” he explained, “baseball evokes the hope that springs eternal.” But all too often, he says, it delivers only “dashed dreams and joyless Mudvilles, because Mighty Casey has struck out.”

In the April 14 presentation titled “The People of Promise and the People of Hope: A Response to the American Dream,” Woodward went on to illustrate the unfolding of that dream through eight historical episodes spanning our country’s nationhood. “The American promise,” he said, “has often functioned as a pipe dream, even a cruel hoax.

”Recounting eight biblical stories, Woodward illustrated the unfolding of a very different kind of hope, one based on the promises of an unchanging, loving God. “There is another land and another promise,” he said. “It points us toward a different understanding of history, a different set of chapters, episodes that amend the sense of possibility cherished by the people of America into a sense of empowering expectation claimed by the people of God.”

Named in honor of Winifred Weter, longtime Seattle Pacific classics professor, coach, and dean of students, the Weter Faculty Award provides a public platform to faculty members “for scholarship informed by a Christian worldview.” Recipients receive an honorarium and an engraved medallion. Woodward is the first person in 31 years to receive the award twice.

The historian, who joined the Seattle Pacific faculty in 1974, was named Professor of the Year in 1996. In 2000, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pacific Northwest Historians Guild. Former chair of the War and Peace subject area of the American Culture Association, and former social science editor for Christian Scholar’s Review, he received the Washington State Historical Society John McClelland Jr. Award for best article published in 1999 in Columbia Magazine, and the 1988 Carl Bode Award for best article in the Journal of American Culture.

Woodward first delivered the Weter Lecture in 1978, before many of the 350 in this year’s audience were born. This time he asked them to consider what it means to be “people of biblical hope.” “Might we become a community of hope, a university modeling a vocation of hope?” he asked. “If so, then even when Casey fails us in the clutch, even when the American dream falters and the American promise falls short, there will be joy in Mudville.”

Click here to download the 2005 Weter Faculty Award Lecture (PDF, 211KB).

— BY Kathy Henning

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