Tabor faculty lecture series renamed for longtime prof

The annual faculty lecture series at Tabor College has been renamed to honor one of its most esteemed professors, Richard Kyle.

The inaugural lecture of the Richard G. Kyle Faculty Lecture Series will be held Thursday, April 1. It is open to Tabor College faculty, staff and students.

Kyle will explore how the notion of a Christian America originated in the colonial period and early 19th century and how it has developed since that time.

“There’s obviously a controversy in our country about how America is Christian,” he said. “I’m going to give both sides-interpretations of it and how the idea developed. It’s a focal point because a lot of people want (America) to return to ‘its Christian roots.’ What were those roots like? How did it develop? How did this idea come about?

“But that’s just part of the larger thing I’m doing. I’m looking at evangelical Christians especially and their relationship to American culture. And my argument is that they are very acculturated, which means they’ve adapted to culture probably almost more than any other religious group except in a few areas.”

Kyle said his audience may be annoyed or happy by his findings, but he hopes they can at least see the differing views and the various concepts behind them.

“Obviously a tone is going to come out where I stand on this, but I’m not here to try to debunk either view.”

Although he openly admits he is a little embarrassed by the naming of the series, Kyle is humbled by the gesture.

“Usually you have to die or retire before something gets named after you,” he joked. “I haven’t retired and I’m still alive.”

Howard Keim, vice president of academics and student development, said this was in no way Kyle’s “swan song,” but rather a lasting tribute to honor the 32-year Tabor faculty member.

President Larry Nikkel agrees with Keim. Naming the series after Kyle allows the institution to recognize the significant achievements he has accomplished, including his many years of service and his commitment to excellence in scholarship and writing.

“Richard Kyle is one of those college professors who is revered by former students for using his personality in teaching history,” said Nikkel.

“I am pleased to recognize Dr. Kyle’s passion for teaching, his commitment to scholarship and his achievements in writing by naming the annual faculty lecture in his honor.”

Keim would like to honor all faculty members in this manner, but Kyle was chosen because “he’s the one who’s been most prolific in terms of number of publications, certainly the most in Tabor’s history, (and) he publishes in an area unique to Tabor’s mission.”

Having authored six books with the seventh in the works-all ranging from fringe religions, to viewing the end of the world, to Mennonite Brethren, to the Reformation, including focused research on John Knox-Kyle’s numerous writings have appeared in journals, books, reference works and church publications.

Serving as a forum for showcasing current research being done by Tabor faculty, the lecture series is meant to act as an encouragement for faculty to be involved in research and then share it with the Tabor community, Keim said.

“Even though we are first a teaching institution, we do want our faculty to be current in research,” Keim said.

Kyle is professor of history and religious studies and chair of the History and Political Science Department.

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