Two generations. The presence of two generations at an institution is a meaningful thing. It suggests longevity, yes. But it also suggests tradition, meaning, worth. Parents who send their kids through the same processes and places for growth and education offer the greatest compliment of all, an acted-upon trust in and recognition of the value of the institution. It’s been a fun year at Austin Grad, and recently, in this spring semester, the circle was completed, and a second generation of friends became students at this place. Let me start with some back story.
I actually came to Austin Grad, then the Institute for Christian Studies (ICS), in August of 1998. Back then I was an undergrad trying to finish out my B.A. and continue on to a master’s degree. Jennifer and I had gotten married in July (and June—long story) of that year, and we headed off to a new adventure together as we both began attending classes that fall.
Upon arriving in Austin, we met the most wonderful couple: Kevin and Elise Hooper. They were down from Idaho and were also somewhat newlyweds. We hit it off immediately, forging a friendship that has crossed through space and time and joy and grief.
One evening during that first year at ICS, Kevin and Elise invited us to a dinner meeting with some other friends, one of whom we knew quite well: Karly Napier. She had married a guy who’d graduated just prior to our arrival. You may have heard the name: Daniel Napier. Before long, the six of us were inseparable, and we could be seen running around on campus together most every day.
Later that semester, Elise and Kevin pulled Jennifer and I out of an evening class (Dr. McNicol’s!) to tell us something. I was oblivious. But Jennifer looked at Elise, and before they could say anything, Jennifer yelled “You’re pregnant!” The next several months were full of fun, with Jennifer and Elise spending hours together on the couch in the student center on ICS’ campus. Kevin and Elise’s son, Corban Mark Hooper, was born May 7, 1999.
Well, it was that time of life for young married couples. In fall 1999, both Karly and Jennifer made each other aware that they were now expecting. Rebeccah Elise Napier was born March 3, 2000, and Madison Nicole Hall was born April 21, 2000. We all ended up going different directions, of course, but we kept in touch, and we were united by our common grief in losing Jennifer in June of that year.
In 2001, we were able to get the kids back together for the picture (and many others) included in this post. Since that time, we’ve done our best to stay in touch, but geography and time have made communication more rare over the years. The Hoopers returned to Idaho, and continue in ministry there. The Napiers spent some time in Toronto (for Daniel’s PhD work), California, and then several years in Zagreb, Croatia. The Halls stayed here in central Texas, close to family.
I started work at Austin Grad in 2006, and Daniel came on as a professor in 2012. Rebeccah and Madi had seen each other a couple of times while the Napiers were home on furlow from Croatia, but they’d not gotten to spend much time together as young adults. This reunion has really taken hold, and the girls are now great friends, even travelling to see Jennifer’s folks together in West Virginia a couple of times.
How beautiful it was, then, this past semester, when all three of the kids, in consultation with their parents, decided to take classes at Austin Grad.
Dawn Bond was teaching a literature course for us, and Madison jumped at the chance to knock out an English credit. Now she wants to continue with Austin Grad and do her B.A. in Christian Studies here. Corban wants to come to school at Austin Grad and, like his dad, serve the church in ministry. He decided, then, to take my Research and Writing in Theology course online. Rebeccah took Daniel’s class on Augustine.
And so, another two generations of students have been blessed by this place. We hope to have many more with multiple generations here. We strive to provide degrees that equip folks for ministry in their local congregations and grounds them firmly in the millennia of Christian thought and tradition. We desire to bring together Christians of all backgrounds and engage them in the long-running and vital discussion of theology.
And so I’ll close with an appeal: send us students.
Speaking from experience, both as a student and as a parent of a student, you won’t be disappointed in the education your kids receive. They’ll be equipped to stand firmly in the Christian tradition, and critically engage the difficulties of life and ministry in contemporary society. They’ll be blessed. And we’ll be blessed to have them. And, if the Lord wills, we’ll have the next generation here, too.
Check out all the courses being offered (with days/times included) here: http://austingrad.edu/course-schedule.
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Austin Graduate School of Theology is an Austin seminary offering B.A. and M.A. ministry degrees, and Austin Grad is accredited by the same agency that accredits Abilene Christian University, Baylor University, Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M University, Texas State University, The University of Texas, and others. Austin Grad -- one of the top Christian colleges in Texas and among the top seminaries in Texas -- is affiliated with the Church of Christ and is in conversation with all who confess Jesus as Lord. Austin Grad promotes faith seeking understanding and is committed to providing a high quality education for those who desire to be equipped to expand the Kingdom of God.