After many years, the call for a new adventure has finally yelled loud enough for Dr. Jesse Sowell, religion professor at Wesleyan, to answer.
Dr. Sowell will be retiring at the end of the 2013 Spring semester after being at Texas Wesleyan University for 38 years.
Sowell said before he became a professor, he was a pastor at the United Methodist Church.
“After I got my seminary degree,” Sowell said, “I knew immediately that I really wanted to take some area of religion and specialize in it.”
Sowell said he came into teaching by accident. He said when he was acting as the chaplain of a junior college and pastor of a church, the president of the college asked him to help take over the classes of a professor who left in the middle of the year. After that, Sowell said he realized he loved to teach.
“So I decided that my particular gifts were more suited to being able to teach religion and philosophy and still be available as a resource person for people in churches,” Sowell said.
Dr. Bruce McDonald, religion professor, has known Sowell for 17 and a half years.
McDonald said when Sowell was going on sabbatical, a woman from McDonald’s church, who used to teach at Wesleyan, told Sowell that he should talk to McDonald, who had just finished his doctorate a year prior, about taking over his classes while he was away. McDonald said he ended up staying at Wesleyan after that.
“He is one of the best-natured people and one of the most level-headed,” McDonald said about Sowell. “You just do not knock him off base very often.”
McDonald said Sowell is cheerful person who loves teaching and always wears a smile. But McDonald said you better be prepared if you joke with Sowell by asking him if he went to Ole Miss instead of Mississippi State.
Kevin Doskocil, earned his bachelor’s degree in religion in 2009 at Texas Wesleyan, said, “Dr. Sowell was definitely a kind-hearted professor. He was attentive to the needs of his students.”
In addition to taking classes from Sowell, Doskocil said Sowell was also his adviser. Doskocil said Sowell exhibited an open-door policy and would go out of his way to answer any questions or concerns Doskocil had.
Doskocil said their conversations went beyond classroom talk, and Sowell genuinely cared about their talks. Doskocil said both his and Sowell’s love of golf spurred many conversations.
Doskocil said Sowell began every class with a prayer, which meant a lot to him because Texas Wesleyan is supposed to be a Christian school.
Doskocil said he wished more professors would have been bold enough to do something like that.
Sowell said every year, besides one, since 1982 he has led an overseas study program for students at Wesleyan.
“I learned a long time ago that being able to experience something that you’re reading about makes you remember and appreciate a whole lot more of it,” Sowell said.
After Sowell retires, he plans to travel to places like Scotland and Australia with his wife. Sowell said he will continue teaching bible studies at his church, and he wants to become more involved in the prison ministry. Sowell said his three children and his nine grandchildren will also keep him busy during retirement.
Sowell said he has been eligible for retirement for about 10 years, but he kept teaching because he loves it.
“I’m glad he’s doing it [retiring] while he has a lot of health left, but we are going to miss him terribly,” McDonald said. “He knows how the university works probably better than anyone in our department because he’s been here so long.”
Doskocil said he knew Sowell’s retirement was coming sooner or later.
“It kind of makes me sad knowing that if I was going to go back to visit that he might not be in his office anymore,” said Doskocil.
Sowell said he read a thought from a book, The Underground Church, that he would like to leave with his students.
“This author said, ‘The church,’ and I would say not only the church, but any organization including a university, ‘can survive differences of opinion. We cannot survive a deficit of love,'” Sowell said.