One of our country’s crying needs is for an increased Christian witness at state universities. The example of the late Bill Wilson, my colleague and friend at Miami University, continues to inspire me.

In 1969 I came to teach history at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, after a stint at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Though not as old as Rutgers (1766), Miami University is a relatively old state university, with its establishment granted in the North-west Ordinance. Its founding date (1809) makes it ten years older than Jefferson’s University of Virginia.

Miami University is named after Ohio’s Miami Indians. (That more famous upstart in the South was named by an Ohio real-estate developer who bought a plot of beachfront in Florida.) One of Miami University’s most illustrious professors was William Holmes McGuffey, author of the best-selling Readers. McGuffey, who conducted Bible studies and preached, later became the first clergyman to teach at the University of Virginia.

As I had been the faculty adviser for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Rutgers, I immediately sought out Miami’s I–V adviser, William Wilson, a botany professor. I encountered a tall gentleman with white hair and a beaming countenance. “Prof” Wilson, as he was known, was a passionate and exciting teacher, who was honored as an Outstanding Miami Faculty member. Even in small classes, he lectured with vigor and fist pounding as he might from a pulpit. An inattentive student might be hit with an eraser or a piece of chalk. As he had been the catcher on the Wheaton College baseball team, he rarely missed.

Bill came to Miami in 1947 and taught here until his retirement in 1979. He forthrightly admired the Creator’s handiwork in plants and trees. ...

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