By The Mane Staff
Dr. William Varner thought he was attending Monday’s chapel to “hand out awards,” but the honor bestowed – and it was a biggie – was for him. In front of the TMU student body, faculty and his a few surprise guests, Varner was presented with a festschrift, one of academia’s most prestigious recognitions.
A festschrift, which translated from German means “a festival writing,” is a collection of writings published in honor of a scholar’s contributions to his or her field and/or students. The book, titled “Written for Our Instruction: Essays in Honor of William Varner,” contains writings from former students and current colleagues from Varner’s 26-year (and counting) tenure as a professor of New Testament and Greek at TMU.
The 325-page volume was published through Fontes Press, which was co-founded by TMU alumnus Clifford Kvidahl. Kvidahl, who majored in Bible from 2004-07, credited Varner’s influence on him during his student years as one of the reasons he decided to go into publishing, and for instilling in him a love for learning.
He shared at Monday’s chapel that he had reached out to the school about honoring Dr. Varner, and was thrilled to learn from TMU president Dr. Abner Chou that the University was already pursuing such an endeavor.
Varner was honored.
“It means that your labor is not in vain in the Lord,” he said. “You don’t do this to get recognition, you do it for the fruit. So on those hard days – those days when students don’t seem appreciative, when you’re not thanked like you think you ought to be thanked – this is a recognition that your labor is not in vain. It’s really not a matter of being thanked. It’s a matter of seeing fruit in your ministry.”
Varner’s wife, Helen, was also present for the occasion, much to Dr. Varner’s surprise.
“She came early and she had a seat reserved next to me,” Varner said. “But she pulled it off and sat somewhere else because she knew I’d catch on if I saw she was there.”
The surprise came at the end of Chou’s chapel message, when he invited Dr. Varner up to the stage, then invited Mrs. Varner to join him. Dr. Varner was visibly surprised to see her there. Chou then proceeded to teach the student body the definition of a festschrift.
At the end of the presentation, Varner received a standing ovation.
Copies of the book can be purchased at fontespress.com.