Whitman College Magazine Online
Jon Walters, Religion
The lengthy lines of hopeful students at Jon Walterss office during registration attest that hes a remarkable teacher or, as he modestly demurs, teaches remarkable material that is (lets be honest) woefully underrepresented. Integrated with the incisiveness of Jons scholarly savoir is the uniquely humanizing texture of his personal experiences, vitalizing everything that he teaches. While insistent upon critical thought, Jon cultivates creative alternatives to standard pedagogy: how many have danced, chanted, or painted a term project for him?
A veteran of most of Walterss never-dull courses, I know that religion is not an inert specimen for dusty intellectual dissection but is fascinatingly, dynamically embodied in the diverse lives of human beings with whom we share an interdependent planet.
Jon has opened my mind to new possibilities from the moment I first declared my fervent intent to study religion and go to Sri Lanka. His influence on my life since is impossible to quantify: our friendship has developed through stories shared over tea on his front porch, hundreds of emailed ideas, his copious comments on drafts of my evolving thesis, his sympathy or encouragement when Ive felt dismal, our similar experiences and loyalties, uproarious dinner conversations with mutual friends.
He has pressed me to clarify and articulate my thoughts, given me respectful space to pursue my interests while lending his precious books and welcome criticism, kept in touch as weve made our separate and overlapping journeys to and from Sri Lanka, been exuberantly proud of each of my accomplishments while Ive earnestly admired his.
Whitman may flaunt student-faculty ratios, but Im convinced that my auspicious luck has considerably more to do with the extraordinary quality of this particular human being, who will, I suspect, long remain my teacher and my friend.