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Edmund Fuller... Christian teacher
By DR. LEVERETT T. SMITH
Edmund Fuller had a very
small part in the continuing drama
that is the history of North Caro
lina Wesleyan College, a some
what larger part behind the scenes,
and a much larger part in my own
Mr. Fuller, we called him. It
was the fall of 1952, and I was 13
years old, one of 40 or so third
formers, new to the Kent School,
then a boarding school for boys
only. Mr. Fuller was on the fac
ulty, but he wasn’t exactly a
teacher. At least he didn’t teach
any classes. He was head of some
thing called “the tutorial pro
gram.” This perplexed us new
boys. We had to read books and
then write essays about them.
No one knew how to do that.
Worse, we had all been assigned
George Orwell’s Animal Farm,
and no one knew what it was
about. A devoted reader of
Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny
comic books myself, I was pretty
sure Animal Farm couldn’t be
about anything serious.
Mr. Fuller straightened us all
out. We all wrote our papers, and
we all conferred — one by one
— with Mr. Fuller in his office
about them. Mr. Fuller’s office is
one of my most vivid memories
of the Kent School. It had many
of the characteristics of a con
verted closet: a long, narrow room
at the end of a hallway of class
rooms, a single window at the
back. The room seemed narrower
because both walls were lined
with bookcases, floor to ceiling,
filled with books. Right in front
of the window sat Mr. Fuller’s
desk, always piled high with stu
dent papers. Behind it sat Mr.
Fuller, hair and full beard stark
white and his eyes — they actu
ally twinkled — a shocking blue.
After I graduated from Kent, I
went on to Middlebury College
in Vermont, but I’d not heard the
last of Edmund Fuller, who turned
up as one of the featured speak
ers at a three-day religion confer
ence in the fall of 1958 or 1959.
At Kent he’d been an adult who’d
been interested in my learning
how to read books. Now I dis
covered he’d written and edited a
great many himself.
He earned his living in the ht-
erary marketplace, and at first his
publications seem rather miscel
laneous. But there is a thread that
connects them; all of Fuller’s writ
ing is informed by a Christian
vision of the human being as a
fallen creature capable of good or
His best known books are Man
in Modem Fiction (1958) and
Books With Men Behind Them
(1962), controversial evaluations
of twentieth century authors ac
cording to the image of humanity
found in their writings. I also liked
a novel of his called The Corri
dor (1962), a novel about a suc
cessful marriage. My favorite,
though, was an autobiographical
narrative. Successful Calamity: A
Writer’s Follies on a Vermont
Farm, with its oxymoronic title.
Finally, there were two edited vol
umes on the subject of education
of great interest to me: The Chris
tian Idea of Education: A Semi
nar at Kent School (1957) and
Schools and Scholarship: The
Christian Idea of Education, Part
I remember particularly one
statement from the first of these
two volumes, from Stephen F.
Bayne, Jr.: “The virtue of the
Christian teacher is exactly the
same as that of any teacher. It is
to tell the truth, and to lead stu
dents to understand it and to leam
how to master it for themselves.
It is good if teachers are Chris
tian, because it is good for all
men to be Christians; but if the
teacher is to teach at all, the test
of his skill and his dedication,
Christian or not, is the same. He
is a minister of God Who is the
teacher; and his primary duty is
not to protect God or to add God
to the curriculum but to be a good
and honest teacher, which is his
But what, you may be won
dering, has Edmund Fuller to do
with us at N.C. Wesleyan? No
much, really, and much of that
behind the scenes. In the late
1970s the college’s administra
tion and trustees formulated a
policy for awarding honorary de
grees and published it to the fac
ulty. Degrees were conferred be
ginning in the late 1970s, but of
late the practice seems to have
died out. The Official Guidelines
describing appropriate candidates
reads as follows: “A person con
sidered for an honorary degree
shall be distinguished in some
worthy field of endeavor. Such a
person shall be outstanding as a
business, professional, or civic
leader; as a statesperson or edu
cator; in service to mankind; and/
or shall have made a significant
contribution to the life of North
Carolina Wesleyan College.”
I thought of Edmund Fuller
inamediately. He had other quali
ties than those of a Christian edu
cator that I thought would appeal
to the administration and board.
His current job was book review
editor of The Wall Street Jour
nal, a paper the businessmen on
the board might be expected to
recognize. In addition, as a child
of the Depression, he not only
had no college degrees, he had
never been to college at all.
Awarding such a degree, I
thought, would not only honor
Edmund Fuller but would give
the college excellent publicity
among the business and religious
communities so important to its
institutional life. And so I filled
out a form nominating Edmund
Fuller and sent it to the faculty.
And the faculty sent it on to
the Board, but it was not to be.
The trustees did not exactly re
ject the nomination, but word fil
tered back that they had not acted
on it because no one on the board
knew Fuller personally. There
was an easy way to solve that
problem, and I worked over the
next several months both to get
Fuller’s name back in nomina
tion and to get him invited to the
college as 1979’s Staley Chris
Both efforts were successful,
and in 1979 Edmund Fuller
played his small part in
Wesleyan’s history as the Staley
lecturer. Over the course of three
days in February, he gave three
lectures and led a seminar on the
subject of “The Vision of Man in
But Wesleyan never awarded
him an honorary degree. I don’t
recall exactly what happened.
Though so far as I know no mem
ber of the Board of Trustees at
tended his lectures, I don’t think
they ever rejected his nomination.
I don’t remember doing it, but
there is evidence that I withdrew
Fuller’s nomination. I have in my
files a copy of a letter to one of
the men who wrote letters in sup
port of Fuller’s nomination in
which I state that because Fuller
“has received an honorary degree
from the University of the South
[Sewanee], ... I am going to stop
pressing his candidacy here.” I
guess I thought we’d lost our
chance to be the first to honor
Edmund Fuller died last Janu
ary at the age of 86.1 am honored
to have been among those many
folks whom he helped to leam to
(Smith is Professor Emeritus
of English at N.C. Wesleyan Col
Terror in America
September the eleventh
In the year two thousand one
Was a day unlike all others
For the evil that was done.
On that morning, without warning —
Nineteen cowards had a pact
To hijack four airliners
That they’d use in their attack.
Both World Trade Center Towers
In New York were first to go.
We watched them crumble to the ground.
A real-life horror show.
The third plane struck the Pentagon
In Washington, D.C.
Americans were stunned to watch
This terror on TV.
So far three planes had hit their mark
And thousands were left dead.
The evil snake had struck our heels.
But we shall crush its head.
Next we heard the news report
About Flight 93.
Why it crashed into the ground
Was then a mystery.
All those brave souls aboard that flight
(First heroes of the war)
Had caused the fourth attack to fail!
They numbered forty-four.
Then firefighters and rescue teams
Police and volunteers —
All rushed to help their fellow man
Through smoke, and fire, and tears.
Each did his job — some even died
While saving those they could.
Three firemen raised the U.S. flag
Where once the towers stood.
Then President George Bush stood up
And to the world he said,
“The ‘evil ones’ responsible —
We’ll get alive or dead.”
Mr. Bush was resolute.
No talks or compromise.
Enduring Freedom shall prevail
With justice as the prize.
Many countries mourned with us.
Some played our nation’s song.
United firm against this plague —
America stood strong.
Our goal is justice — not revenge.
This evil must not stand.
All terror camps shall be destroyed.
The first — Afghanistan.
The Taliban’s oppressive rule
Was conquered in disgrace.
A1 Qaeta leaders ran and hid.
Afraid to show their face.
But they’ll be found, and that’s a fact.
Indeed, the world will know
That terrorists cannot escape
No matter where they go.
All those that harbor or support
The terrorists’ empire
From here at home to foreign lands.
Our message now is dire.
But where was God in all of this.
Some people have inquired?
Though we expect God to protect —
There’s things from us required.
God has not abandoned us.
In fact. He’s very near.
The way Americans have changed
Has made God’s presence clear.
Three decades we ignored the signs
That led to this assault.
Although we did not start this war,
We must accept some fault. |
Our nati* then must stay the coi
Until thi^ar is won.
United bS^is tragedy ...
America B One.
% — Peter West, Stoi|ifent
N.C .Wesleyan College, Jan. 21,1^2