McMurry Honors Dr. Robert Monk
By LORETTA FULTON
Letters from former students, colleagues, and friends poured in a year ago when McMurry University planned to honor professor emeritus of religion Dr. Robert C. Monk.
But COVID-19–the grinch that stole 2020–dashed that plan and the ceremony was postponed until Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Monk has had a year to savor those letters, and on Friday he shared a particularly meaningful comment from a former student.
“You taught me to think,” the student wrote. “And you taught me to think for myself.”
That may be the ultimate compliment a student can pay a teacher. Many of the former students, colleagues, friends, and even some family members were on hand for the Oct. 15 celebration, which came during McMurry’s homecoming weekend.
John Miller, a McMurry religion professor, joined the faculty in 2004 and immediately formed a friendship with Monk. Over the past 17 years, Miller has encountered many, many people who benefitted from Monk’s knowledge, teaching abilities, and willingness to be a mentor.
“Thank you, Bob,” Miller said, “and thank you for your ministry to all of us.”
Guest speaker for the Oct. 15 ceremony was Ted Campbell, the Albert C. Outler Professor of Wesley Studies at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. His talk, “The Methodist Monk Who Uttered the Dreaded ‘C’ Word” was both humorous and filled with praise for Monk’s scholarship in Wesleyan studies. Among Monk’s books is John Wesley, His Puritan Heritage. The “dreaded ‘C’ word’ is “Calvin,” as in John Calvin.
Monk was honored in 2015 with the Cross & Flame Award, which was established in 2000 by the McMurry Alumni Association to strengthen the relationship between McMurry and the United Methodist Church by recognizing individuals for service to their churches and to the university.
Monk has been a member of St. Paul UMC for more than 50 years and taught at McMurry for 31 years. In the community, he was on the board of directors of the Betty Hardwick Center for Mental Health and was a member of several academic societies. He also served the larger church on various committees.
Monk thanked those former colleagues, family, and friends who attended Friday’s ceremony but said they are the ones who should be honored, not him.
“I was just doing my job,” he said.
Born in 1930 in Arkansas, Monk moved with his parents and two siblings to Lubbock as a child. Before moving to Abilene to teach at McMurry, Monk was director of the Wesley Foundation at Texas A&M University and was associate director of the Texas Methodist Student Movement. Even after becoming a professor, his students’ spiritual lives were important to him.
“I never left campus ministry,” he said.
Monk’s wife, Carolyn, died in 2017. They were the parents of two daughters, Robbi Monk Harms and Ellen Monk Winstanley. On Friday, Robbi and her husband, Steve, were among the well-wishers gathered to honor Monk. Robbi worked in the business office at McMurry in the 1980s. She praised her father for his genuine love for people.
“He’s just always cared for others,” she said. “He’s still ministering.”
Loretta Fulton is creator and editor and Spirit of Abilene