Written by Dr. Charles Zimmerman
Thursday, 02 February 2012 00:00
Where have they gone & where are they now?
I decided that for my blog entries, I would contact founding faculty members and provide an update on what they have been doing since they left Biblical and how they spend their time these days.
If you missed the first two blog installments – “Doc” Newman and Gary Cohen – I encourage you to scroll back through Biblical’s faculty blog and check them out. And while you’re at it, why not attach a comment and then drop them a note of encouragement and thanks.
Today we will hear from Dr. Bob Vannoy. Bob was the first to hold a chaired faculty position at the seminary, the Allan A. MacRae Chair of Biblical Studies and was the favorite professor of many students.
What years did you teach at Biblical?
I taught at Biblical from 1971 until 2005. I had previously taught at Faith Theological Seminary from 1965 to 1971. This involved forty years of teaching at two theological seminaries.
Tell a favorite memory from your Biblical days.
As you may suspect it is difficult to choose from the many memories of a lifetime of teaching. As I reflect on my time at Biblical I think the strongest and most satisfying memories are connected with the early years of the founding of the Seminary. This was an exciting time, but also one filled with a lot of uncertainty about what lay ahead. It is not an easy thing to launch a new graduate school of theological education with little or no constituency and no guarantees of financial backing.
When all but a few of the faculty members at Faith Theological Seminary resigned after the graduation exercises in May of 1965, and then announced the formation of Biblical, we were told by Faith Seminary that we needed to leave the premises of the Seminary by mid-August of that summer. My wife, Kathe, and I and our three children lived in an apartment on the Seminary grounds. Kathe was due to give birth to our fourth child in October. My wife's parents from The Netherlands were planning to visit us there in September. We did not know where the new Seminary was to be located because a search for a suitable location was just beginning. Various sites were considered including one in the New Hope area and one in Hatfield. My wife and I explored the surrounding communities and on a Saturday afternoon we happened to drive by Penn View Christian School then on Cowpath Road in Souderton.
We had never heard of this Christian school and stopped in because they were having their spring country fair and auction, and we wanted to learn something about it. We were impressed with what we saw and came back to speak further with school officials the next week. Being committed to Christian education for our children we made the decision to look for a suitable home in the vicinity of Penn View Christian School. Our decision was that we would locate near the school for our children and I could then commute to wherever the Seminary was finally located. (As it later turned out the Seminary was three miles down the road in Hatfield).
We had noticed some realtor signs in the area with the name Lapp and Alderfer. We knew nothing about this realtor, but stopped at the office and were introduced to Wilbur Lapp, a fine Christian gentleman who was very helpful to us in our search for a suitable and affordable home. We looked a number of properties, over the next week or so but did not find anything that we were comfortable with. One afternoon we drove along West Walnut St. in Souderton, and commented to each other that it would be great if a home on that street was for sale. But there were no "for sale" signs.
The next day Wilbur Lapp phoned us and said a property had come on the market that he thought we might be interested in. We drove up to Souderton and Mr. Lapp took us to a very nice home on West Walnut St. It was about five years old, had been built for the pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Souderton, and included an office/library room in the smallest of the four bedrooms in the house. The price appeared to be reasonable and we were excited about having found a place less than a 1/2 mile from Penn View School. We told Mr. Lapp that we were interested in buying the house but that we needed to be able to move in the house by mid-August. We were disappointed when he told us that it would not be available until late October, because the owner’s daughter was being married in mid- October, the invitations etc. had been printed and they did not want to move until after the wedding. We needed to be out of Faith Seminary by mid-August, Kathe's parents were arriving for a visit in September, so this was a serious disappointment. We told Mr. Lapp that we would pay the listed price for the house if they would vacate by mid-August. He said he doubted they would accept that offer but would see if it could be done.
To make a long story short, the owners of the home agreed to move by mid-August and we found ourselves in a very nice home by the end of the summer. This was just one of many indications to us that God was guiding in the establishment of Biblical and that He would provide for the needs of the institution and the faculty. This was seen time and time again in remarkable ways in the early years of the Seminary.
It has been a great blessing to see how God has used that humble beginning to train a host of students who are now spreading the good news of the kingdom of God, not only in the USA, but in countries around the globe. Praise be to God!
I might add: We have lived in the same house (with two additions to its size) for the past 40 years and all four of our children graduated from Penn View Christian School and subsequently from Christopher Dock Mennonite High School. All three of our local grandchildren are now attending Penn View and Christopher Dock as well.
What have you been doing since leaving Biblical?
Since retirement I have been able to finish a commentary on 1, 2 Samuel that I had been working on for many years. It was published by Tyndale House Publishers, in the Cornerstone Commentary Series in December of 2009. Through contacts with former students at BTS who are now ministering in Singapore, Kathe and I have had the opportunity to visit Asia two times on teaching ministries, in both Singapore itself as well as in Malaysia and the Philippines. A third trip is in the planning stage that will involve teaching in three seminaries in India along with other engagements in Singapore. These travels have been very enriching to us as we are exposed to the dynamic ministry of several Singapore churches that have extensive missionary outreaches to many of the more impoverished countries in South East Asia. Also on the drawing board is a book on the Theology of 1, 2 Samuel that I have been asked to write for a series of books on Biblical Theology being published by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. Not all of our time is taken by ministry opportunities. We try to keep connected with our four children and their families that are spread from Maine to Pennsylvania to Georgia and Florida. We now have the joy of fifteen grandchildren ranging in age from 18 to less than 1 year old.
Give a brief update you your family
Kathe continues to work part time at Dock Woods Community as a Care Coordinator and Infection Preventionist. Her income helps to keep us afloat financially. In addition she is active in a number of church functions, and keeps in touch with the extended family. She has recently returned from her own trip to Malaysia, where she volunteered for doing child care at a regional missionary conference sponsored by Mission to the World (the PCA missions organization) for their many missionaries in Asia. She was also able to spend a couple of days with our acquaintances in Singapore before returning home.
Our oldest child, Anna, lives close by in Morwood, PA. She and her husband, Bob, attend Covenant Presbyterian Church in Harleysville, where Kathe and I also attend. Bob is the sales manager for EDS a local water and smoke damage restoration business. They have three children, Wes, a senior at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, Seth, a sophomore at Christopher Dock, and Kate, who is in the 5th grade at Penn View Christian School.
Rob, our oldest son, lives in Lookout Mountain, GA, with his wife, Liza and four children: Allison, Katherine, Bobby, and Kamp. Rob is the owner of a construction firm that builds very high end houses. He has been quite successful in business even during the economic downturn of the past few years.
Mark our middle son, lives in Waldoboro, Maine with his wife Esther. They have five children: Jane, Arie, Annie, Finley and Eva. After graduating from the Naval Academy, Mark spent his required payback time on active duty in the Navy, but felt that he needed to return to the private sector in order to meet his family responsibilities. He remains in the Naval Reserve. Mark now works as a civil engineer with a Maine engineering firm although most of his work is for the Nestle Corporation and their many bottled water operations in various parts of the country. Poland Springs water takes a lot of his time in Maine but he has also done work for Nestle in Colorado, Florida and other places. Mark is an elder at the Lakeview Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Rockport, Maine.
Jonathan, our youngest son, lives with his wife Debby in Niceville, Florida. They have three children: Sarah, Cora, and Andrew. Jon is presently working in highway construction while completing a degree in civil engineering that he had begun while in college but not completed. The completion of his degree will open up many opportunities for advancement with the large firm for which he is now working.
As a family we have been blessed with the opportunity to gather as a whole family in Tenants Harbor, Maine, every summer for the past 35 years. Coming together as a family in this beautiful spot has been a gift of God to our family, and has become one of the highlights of our year.
Charles Zimmerman is the Thomas V. Taylor Professor of Practical Theology. He also serves as Teaching Pastor at Calvary Church in Souderton. He is married to Kim and they have two daughters, Ashley and Megan. See alsohttp://biblical.edu/index.php/charles-zimmerman