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Professors Airhart, Bourgeois and Vaage Honoured

Dec. 15, 2020

Congratulations to Professors Airhart, Bourgeois and Vaage who were appointed to the rank of Professor Emeritus by the Victoria University Senate in September.

Below are excerpts from their nominations:

Prof. Phyllis D. Airhart

Phyllis Airhart joined the faculty of Emmanuel College in 1985 as assistant professor of the history of Christianity. As a recent graduate of the University of Chicago, she was hired to fill the position left vacant by the retiring of the eminent scholar, John Webster Grant. Now, after 35 years of exemplary teaching, scholarship and administrative leadership, Airhart retires having made her own distinctive mark as a cherished and highly respected contributor to the life of Emmanuel, to the United Church of Canada (UCC), and to the field of history of Christianity, particularly in Canada and North America. She also served twice as acting principal and once as interim principal of Emmanuel College. Those who have had the fortune of knowing Airhart will all agree that her sharp intellect, generous spirit, good sense of humour and passion for theological education are not merely noteworthy but also infectious features of her life and work. Airhart has been recognized for her teaching, receiving the Victoria University Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1991 and the Davidson Trust Award for Teaching and Scholarship in Theological Education (UCC) in 2002.

Resolution presented by Prof. Thomas E. Reynolds.

Prof. Michael Bourgeois

Michael Bourgeois was appointed to the position of assistant professor of theology at Emmanuel College in 2001, bringing deep roots in theological education and an incisive and elegant way with words and complex ideas. His considerable wisdom and experience in academic governance and administration equipped him to be extraordinarily effective as vice-principal of Emmanuel College. One recurring appreciation is for his role in the creation of the UCC’s most recent statement of faith, “A Song of Faith.” As chair of the church’s Theology and Faith Committee, he skillfully shepherded that work to a resounding vote of unanimous support at the 39th General Council in 2006. On the pedagogical front, Bourgeois’ teaching has been second to none — in Vic One, and in the master’s and doctoral programs of Emmanuel College and the Toronto School of Theology. His interest in film, music and popular culture regularly makes its way into his work to the delight and edification of his students and readers. Awards include the UCC’s prestigious McGeachy Senior Scholarship (1999), a Science and Religion Program Award from the Centre for Theology and the Natural Sciences (2000), a Templeton/American Scientific Affiliation award (2002), and the Davidson Trust Award for Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship in Theological Education (UCC, 2009).

Resolution presented by Prof. William S. Kervin.

Prof. Leif E. Vaage

In 1991, Leif Vaage joined the faculty of Emmanuel College as assistant professor of New Testament. Vaage is widely credited with bringing to Emmanuel a new perspective not only on the New Testament but also on the global diversities of faith and politics. A critic of privilege and triumphalist readings of history and interpretations of the Bible, his publications in three languages amply demonstrate the ability to interpret scripture from multiple locations. Delight in language and metaphor permeates this body of work, particularly in his published volumes of poetry: Schooled in Salt (2003), Cariboo (2016), Perfect Day (2016) and Metaphysical Athlete (2019). Sensitivity to words was integral to Vaage’s teaching of scripture to Emmanuel College students. Upon Vaage’s retirement, past Principal Mark Toulouse reflected that, “In line with the alternative approaches he applied to biblical exegesis, he always offered a ‘borderline exegesis’ of Emmanuel’s history and identity … [and] provided considerable insight concerning ‘the margins of well-being’ at the College.” His tireless work as Emmanuel’s representative to the Victoria University chapter of the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) put his systemic thinking, institutional memory and impeccable understanding of policy in the service of improving the quality of life for all, particularly for vulnerable members of the community.

Resolution presented by Principal Michelle Voss Roberts.

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