Crown College Honors Retiring Faculty Members
Crown Professors Gianoulis and Bedford Retiring
St. Bonifacius, Minn. — You won’t find two more humble spirits than those of retiring professors Dr. George Gianoulis and Dr. Bill Bedford. They’d be among the last to call attention to themselves in the kind of personal profiles presented here. We, on the other hand, simply want to celebrate what God has done through two capable and willing servant-academics as they move on to a new stage of life and ministry. We appreciate their willingness to share part of their stories.
Interestingly, they both commented on one of the things they have appreciated about Crown— and that is how Crown professors view themselves not as free agents, getting ready for the next opportunity, but rather as teammates in helping shape young minds.
Gentlemen, we are grateful for your faithful service.
Careening Into Control
Dr. George Gianoulis
Professor of Greek and New Testament
A young, impatient 18 year-old winds his way through the craggy hills of Minnesota’s Jay Cooke State Park at break neck speed. The day’s hill climb race is sponsored by the Duluth Sports Car Club. George Gianoulis is at the wheel of his beloved Echidna powered by a Corvette engine in pursuit of a faster time put down earlier by his personal racing hero Jerry Hansen. And Hansen is no rank amateur; in fact, he’s the winningest amateur driver in the history of the Sports Car Club of America. And yet, so committed to this pursuit was George that he vows, “I’ll beat Hansen or go off the track.”
Reaching speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour, young George miscalculates the proximity of an unforgiving piece of roadside granite. In a heartbeat he is airborne and, to his surprise, inexplicably released from his aircraft-rated seat belt. The car comes to rest wheels up alongside its driver.
“That was a day that I realized ‘God loved me and had a wonderful plan for my life,’” recalls Professor Gianoulis. “It changed my life’s trajectory, literally and figuratively.”
The accident not only captured the young man’s attention; it also fueled a deeper passion for learning. A onetime marginal student at the U of M—and on the verge of dismissal—his renewed faith changed everything, including his approach to his studies. Willing to take a chance on George, a University of Minnesota Dean placed him on academic probation to see if his fledgling faith would really translate into better grades. George made good and the car enthusiast was now headed down a new road—the road of academics, powered by a sheer exuberance for learning.
Armed with a sense of wonder and innate curiosity, George began tackling every area of study with gusto. The more he learned, the more he wondered, the more he realized that a growing mind was essential to a growing spirit.
George came to Crown in 1975 and has two daughters—also Crown graduates—and a son who graduated from Bethel. What’s changed over the years?
“I remember teaching the book of Romans back in 1987 when one very bright student told me, ‘This is way too hard.’ And he was right; with time my teaching became more conversational and less ‘sage on the stage’. One thing that hasn’t changed is my love of learning and the sense I get that I’m taking my students on a great adventure of learning. And it gives me great satisfaction to see them go on to do great things with their lives.”
What’s next for Professor Gianoulis? “I really don’t have what you’d call ‘traditional retirement plans.’ I’ll continue teaching with writing and teaching.” Hopefully, his retirement plans include no more road races.
Professor Bedford Completes His History Assignment
Dr. Bill Bedford
Professor of History
Professor Bill Bedford’s floor to ceiling bookshelf stands as a beckoning treasure trove to anyone with an inclination to better understand the past and what it means. But, what’s contained on those shelves comes to life as Professor Bedford easily glides from one period of American history to the next. From discussing one of the Puritan founders and visionary, John Winthrop, and his, “shining city on a hill” metaphor, to Benjamin Franklin, that model of inventiveness, and Franklin Roosevelt optimistically presiding over 12 of the most challenging years of American history, the professor believes that the study of history is essential to understanding the present.
“During my high school and college days, I had instructors who really got my attention and captured my imagination for history. I had a knack for it and did well, but never really thought I’d teach,” says Dr. Bedford.
As a first job out of graduate school, he worked on a project at Chicago’s Newberry Library where he teamed with other scholars in creating an atlas of American history. When that daunting project began to wind down, Dr. Bedford began considering a career in academia. How did a native of North Carolina and his young bride from Virginia decide to forgo southern charms for the northern climes of Minnesota? The young couple had become aware of Crown through a friend at their CMA church in Chicago who was a Crown board member.
“I made contact with Crown and eventually an opening came along and we arrived on campus in 1976. We never really thought we’d still be here in 2014, but it’s turned out to be a great career,” says Bill.
Those early days at Crown were exciting for a young family. While the old-timers talked a lot about the St. Paul Campus, the new campus was bustling with activity and growth. Soon, Crown was like a big extended family for the young Bedford family.
“It’s been a real family commitment for us to be at Crown” says Bill. “During my half dozen or so years helping coach the Cross Country team, I’d occasionally bring my kids to the cafeteria and we’d eat with the team. In addition, my wife has done two separate working stints at Crown. And both of our children also came through Crown and had good academic experiences, so it’s really been a gratifying family enterprise for all of us.”
History has a way of repeating itself in an academic environment; so what has kept Professor Bedford engaged through his years of teaching?
“It’s true, there can be a sameness to things; but every semester is different. You have the same course, but two sections can have a totally different personality. Plus, we’re in the people business. You’re constantly meeting new students and colleagues from a wide range of backgrounds.
“What can be discouraging is when you realize that not everyone is as hot on history as I am; but then you get classes you click with and it can really be a lot of fun. It’s especially gratifying to stay in touch with former students and to see them go on a career trajectory where they’ve found their niche. They’re doing well and have been able to build on their Crown education, maybe going on to grad school, seminary, or the mission field. It’s great to have a small part in that bigger picture,” says Dr. Bedford.
What does a history professor think about his own future?
“I’m going to keep teaching as an adjunct and doing an online course. I’m not retiring from the church; we’ll remain active there. I’d like to continue reviewing books and research. I’m not going to be bored. We’re going to stay here. I like to fish, canoe, watch documentaries, and I think I’ll find time to clean my garage,” says Dr. Bedford.
Spoken like a true Minnesotan.
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