116 Years of Service
Naomi (Spurrier '05) Smith
Houghton College recently bade adieu to three longserving professors: Jake Jacobson, professor of mathematics, Ben King, professor of voice, and Carl Schultz, professor of Old Testament. Together, these men represent 116 years of service to Houghton, and their legacies are large indeed.
When alumni talk about Jake Jacobson, they speak of his intelligence and humility, his gentle and quiet manner, and his deep love for mathematics, his students, and the Lord. Jake (who insisted that everyone call him Jake) was a "one-of-a-kind professor" who wore flannel shirts and jeans, was an avid football and basketball player, and faithfully rode his bicycle all over campus.
Jake was fantastic at helping students connect with math. Meagan (McNeely '10) Starr writes, "The best part about Jake's class was the way he taught it. We could tell he was brilliant, but he never made us feel stupid when we didn't understand. He was always willing to sit down after class and go over things. And he knew how to take the most complicated concepts and bring them down to an easy-to-follow level. I hated math at the start of the class, but Jake made me love it and enjoy it."
Jake amassed 46 years of teaching math at Houghton, but teaching was never just about the numbers. He genuinely loved building relationships with his students, and many attest to Jake's incredible influence in their lives. "He taught me to value academic excellence but also to seek balance and godliness in all of my life," writes Sharon (Meiners '98) Wolcott. "He instilled confidence in me," says Jonathan Sastic '75. "I don't know where I would be without Jake," declares Adam Sullivan '03.
Alumni speak of how Jake's patience and kindness made a difference on the Houghton campus. Judy Gale '87 writes, "When I think of Jake, 'brother in Christ' and 'servant-leader' immediately come to mind. His presence on campus helped set a spiritual climate that aided in the growth and cultivation of my faith." Rhonda (Slate '94) Walsh recollects, "Most people will remember Jake as standing in front of a huge calculus class, coming up with difficult problems with a wave of his hand, and saying, 'I'm sure the answer isn't real obvious to you'... But Jake cared about his students and his assistants. Brilliance with love — that's Jake."
Some alumni fondly remember Ben King singing "If I were a rich man" as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. Others remember the sound of his booming voice and laugh, or the day he showed up to class in slippers, or the music listening sessions where he treated students to "ear candy." For all who entered the Greatbatch School of Music, King was a walking encyclopedia of musical knowledge and an enthusiastic musician, educator, administrator, and friend.
King combined high energy with a calm presence and unwavering trust in God. He might have flailed his arms around if he got particularly excited about what a person was singing, but his students also knew they could tell him anything in the world, and he would listen with compassion and wisdom.
Classes and lessons with King were never dull. To reinforce concepts in vocal pedagogy, he would have students lie on the floor to practice breathing or get them to make "unbelievable noises" and silly faces at themselves in the mirror. Starr says, "Dr. King knew how to get the most out of his students, and he was willing to look absolutely ridiculous if it would help us remember what he was teaching. He taught me how to unpack ideas and use them." Joanna Stolzenburg '11 confesses, "I felt like I could sit in that class and listen and learn all day and I'd be happy. I took away so much from his classes that I use regularly, and I always remember where I learned it."
King was also an invaluable resource outside of the classroom. Starr writes, "He was not only a great teacher, he was a great mentor, and he was always willing to listen if I needed to talk. I spent countless hours in his office trying to figure out my life and schedule over my four years of college, and he did so much to help and encourage me." And Jeremy Wilton '01 reflects, "I always knew that I could go to him with any issue or problem I had. His unique personality had a way of putting things in perspective for me, and I always felt like he was capable of bringing out the best in me."
CARL SCHULTZ '53
Carl Schultz loved teaching eight o'clock classes, and many Houghton alumni first encountered his dry wit, keen insights, and high standards in an early morning biblical literature class. Jonathon Jankovich '92 remembers how Schultz "spoke often of putting the correct em-PHAS-is on every syl-LAB-le, all the while sipping coffee from a well-used styrofoam cup."
Houghton alumni describe Schultz as a man of "firm conviction" and "heated intensity," who was unafraid of challenging assumptions and preconceived notions. "He loved to throw young minds for a loop," explains Nick Furman '05, who says, "I consider his audacity and voracious appetite for truth to be part of a major turning point in my own pursuit of God and all things academic... Through Dr. Schultz's life and witness, I learned that the process of critical thinking often begins with a conscious departure from the thought patterns of the world and the blanket appraisals of the masses and a naked standing before God with the words, 'Here I am, Lord. Teach me Your ways.'" Schultz was a diligent, reverent, and passionate scholar of the Word of God. "He deepened my understanding of the biblical text," writes Jankovich, "but he also instilled in me a love for those texts and a love of correctly interpreting and teaching them. I love God's Word so much, and I deeply love the One who gave them, both of which I acquired in part from Carl Schultz."
As a lifelong pastor (Schultz served as minister of two United Methodist churches while carrying a full-time teaching load), he was able to encourage others in their pastoral ministry and educational pursuits. Alumni were impressed not only by Schultz's rigor but also by his grace. "He was focused on living a life that was pleasing to the Lord," says Becky (Gardiner '94) Todd, and Lenny Luchetti '96 remembers how Schultz spoke with "tact and forthrightness, grace and truth." Throughout his 43 years at Houghton, Schultz frequently lectured on the topic of vocation, and he understood the far-reaching implications of Colossians 3:23 (NRSV): "Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters."