Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ted Ward, Groundhog Day and cultural impact

As part of my PhD program, I have the opportunity to meet with veteran educator Ted Ward, who played a key role in developing Trinity's PhD programs in educational studies and intercultural studies. Over lunch today, he told our group of doctoral students that back in the 1930s his father was a publicist for the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Many towns in the area also featured groundhogs, but Ward's father helped establish their town as the groundhog capital. The result is what we know today as Groundhog Day.

This was fascinating to me because any of those Pennsylvania towns could have done something with groundhogs, but Ward's father did something intentional to brand their town and create a cultural phenomenon with lasting impact. This seems analogous to Ted Ward's own influence in educating a generation of leaders in missiology and Christian education. Many current professors and church leaders did their doctoral work under Ted, including Compassion International president Wesley Stafford, TEDS president Craig Williford, Wheaton missions prof Evvy Campbell, Biola prof Klaus Issler, and several of my IVP authors, including Duane Elmer, Steve Hoke (coauthor of the recently released Global Mission Handbook) and Jim Plueddemann, whose new book Leading Across Cultures just came in from the printer yesterday.

Every February 2, and every time someone watches the Bill Murray film Groundhog Day, we experience something of the cultural legacy of Ted Ward's father. And every student or reader of Ted Ward's students continues to experience the effects of Ted's educational thinking and influence, even two or three generations afterward. I'm grateful for the chance to learn from Ted and have him speak into my thinking, and I'm challenged to contribute to the shaping of lives in ways that will influence not just the present but also generations to come.

1 comment:

Dianne said...

This post made me laugh! I love Groundhog Day (I'm from PA, about an hour from Punxsatawney) - have since I was a kid and it signaled the arrival of spring (and my dad's exodus from his yearly winter depression). We actually celebrated it every year - so when I told my husband-to-be about that, he did the only right thing - proposed to me on GHD! How interesting about Ted Ward's father, and yes, what an impact our intentionality can have on many.