In the early 1960s at Dallas Theological Seminary, a young student named Chuck Swindoll was advised, "Be on the lookout for a professor named Howie Hendricks. He's a man worth getting to know." That advice led to a mentoring friendship that continues to shape the lives of both men.
Hendricks is celebrating his fiftieth anniversary at the seminary. Swindoll is now the school's chancellor, after seven years as president, even as he continues his Insight for Living radio ministry and pastoring Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas.
Mentor and student were reunited as Leadership's Marshall Shelley asked them to reflect on their relationship and what it takes to keep yourself growing.
Howard, what do you remember about Chuck Swindoll as a student? What was your first impression?
Howard Hendricks: What impressed me about Chuck was he sat right under my nose right in the first row.
Chuck Swindoll: Within spitting distance.
Hendricks: He needed an umbrella. (Laughter)
Chuck always asked perceptive questions, always took copious notes. He would follow me out of the classroom and continue to pick my brain.
I love that in students. I have an intense interest in students and their learning, and I feel I am doing what God put me on the planet to do. I couldn't care less what a student already knows. I want to know if he or she is interested in learning. If he is, I'm going to give him everything I've got, the best that I've got.
Swindoll: That came through in his classes. I didn't sense he was trying to grade me. In fact, I don't know that my grade was ever that important to him. He put his finger on what would go with me the rest of my life—if you learn to study and learn to love it, you're going to do it.
What was the best thing you learned from Howard?
Swindoll: The best stuff I learned from him I couldn't take from my notes—there's no course on wisdom. The best stuff is not in a curriculum. I had no idea there would be someone on this campus who would believe in me before I ever believed in myself.
Let me tell you a story that will show you why I came to love him. Between semesters in my fourth year, Cynthia and I went to Houston to see our parents. While driving home from church on an icy Sunday in January, we were hit by a drunk driver: totaled our car, threw our son against the windshield and broke his jaw. Cynthia was thrown against the gearshift and began to hemorrhage. She was carrying our third child. Our second we had lost in a heartbreaking miscarriage.
My world collapsed. I came back to Dallas—no car, no money, and now I didn't know if the baby would survive. I was discouraged and heart broken, not knowing if I'd be able to finish school. I needed someone to talk to.
That night I remember walking along a hallway among the profs' offices looking for a light under a door, any door. When I found one, I knocked. The prof opened the door just a little and said, "You're interrupting me. What do you want?"
I said, "I don't want anything from you," and I walked away. He watched me leave and closed the door.
I walked down the stairs and out on the campus. Howie had just finished teaching a night course, and he saw me. He said, "I heard what happened. I'm so sorry." He put his arm around me. We sat down on a bench, what came to be known as the Hendricks bench.
He asked about Cynthia. I told him she was hemorrhaging pretty badly and the baby was in danger.
"We've lost babies," he said. "I know that feeling. I don't know what I can do, but Jeanne and I will do anything to help you through this time."