Notes From The Balcony

Progressive Reflections on Post-Modern Living in a Multifaith Age

Swift Hall – I do miss it sometimes

Posted by John Montgomery on May 4, 2010

Rachel had this picture of Swift Hall on her FaceBook profile and it got me reflecting….

I still have books that I never quite got read and that was 25 years ago!

Martin Marty taught me that graduate study was simply an ongoing conversation – in that light, I learned to spend more time reading footnotes than text. I still do.

Langdon Gilkey told us wonderful stories that stay with me to this day.

I still think that Shantung Compound is better theology than most three volume sets of systematics. Someday I will retell the story that he told of how when he was once at Union, he learned that body language in the face of a boorish lectures probably told more about both Tillich and Niebuhr’s theology than their latest work

But one particular story was very important to me. Gilkey once told the story of how in light of Jim Lawson’s dismissal from the Divinity School for leading demonstrations with Fisk students, he and Gordon Kaufmann tendered their resignations at Vanderbilt – unless Lawson was reinstated. The chancellor regretfully took no action. But a couple of days later, when three young upstart members of the faculty of the Medical School made the same gesture, the chancellor listened. With a twinkle in his eye, Gilkey noted that a southern university might survive without a divinity school, but not without a medical school.

I later came to understand with pride and some awe at his courage that one of the upstart med school professors was my Uncle, Victor Najjar.

My comfortable cubicle in the basement felt like a wonderful retreat from the world – of course, we were naive back then – and it only took the murder of Professor Ioan Petru Culianu in the bathroom on the second floor most likely by the Romanian secret Securitate to bring that illusion to an end

I hear the coffee house is still there in the basement.

Take that Starbucks!

If I spend time speaking with divinity school professors these days, they are generally either retired from or active at Candler. When my late wife, Judy and I came to Atlanta – many of the faculty who taught me in Chicago were now at Emory.

Still, when I bleed, I do bleed Maroon.

See Wiki article: The University of Chicago Divinity School

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2 Responses to “Swift Hall – I do miss it sometimes”

  1. John Welch said

    “Still, when I bleed, I do bleed Maroon.”

    That mad me chuckle, on this grim 31 May of 2010, since I wrote for The Maroon and was even managing editor during the summer of 1967…Love Summer in Haight-Ashbury but something else in Hyde Park.

    During my brief time in The College of the University of Chicago (X70), Swift Hall, the Div School, Bond Chapel, the Disciples Church, the Blue Gargoyle, and Quaker House (aka 57th Street Meeting of Friends) were about the only spots of warmth and humanity. Aside from the other undergraduates.

    In my day, Swift had the philosophy and religion books, since the total collection had outgrown Harper Library. We used to study there, since the light was good and the Buber and Tillich books were down in the stacks.

    For peace,

    John W

  2. John Montgomery said

    Hey John,

    Welcome back – indeed those were important times and special places. I was always struck that the angels in the rafters of Bond Chapel played musical instruments, but the angels in the rafters of the old library room that you remember on the t0p floor of Swift Hall (now primarily used for conferences sponsored by the Marty Center), those angels all read books!

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