College of Theology’s Beloved ‘Grandpa’ Retiring After 31 Years at GCU
By Bob Romantic
GCU News Bureau
Sara Martinez doesn’t have children.
If the Grand Canyon University senior did, she says she’d want them to call Dr. Clark Youngblood “Grandpa.”
What’s more, Martinez says of her systematic theology professor: “I mentioned to my friends that, if I had a chance, I would want to invite him to my wedding – and I don’t even have a boyfriend right now.”
Youngblood, 66, who is retiring after commencement ceremonies this week, has had that kind of impact on students and colleagues for 31 years at GCU.
“He just has that type of personality,” explained Martinez, who is graduating Thursday and hadn’t taken a class with Youngblood until her senior year. “You just want to be around him. He is so friendly and compassionate.
“And he has a dry wit that I really enjoy. He is very similar to my personality so he makes me laugh a lot.”
Leaving a legacy
Youngblood is second only to fellow theology professor Dr. Michael Baird in terms of length of service among current full-time employees at GCU. Baird came on board in 1979, then was part of the hiring committee that brought in Youngblood three years later.
“It’s been a lot of good years,” Baird said. “But I couldn’t have survived without Clark. I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t been a comrade and colleague through all the changes. … I could always count on him to have a good, sane perspective.”
Saying goodbye A retirement party is planned for Dr. Youngblood from 1-3 p.m. Wednesday in the Prayer Chapel of the College of Arts and Sciences building.
During those 30-plus years, Youngblood has seen his field of education go from the Department of Religion to the Department of Christian Studies to the College of Christian Studies and now the College of Theology, and switch between department status and full-blown college status three times.
Youngblood served as the head of the department for a few years when it fell under the umbrella of the College of Liberal Arts and has had a hand in designing the content for several courses. But, for most of his time, he has enjoyed serving as a professor specializing in systematic theology.
“That’s his area,” said Anna Faith Smith, assistant dean of the College of Theology. “That’s looking at the doctrines of Christianity and why we believe what we believe about God, why we believe what we believe about Jesus, why we believe what we believe about salvation or sin or those kinds of things. He’s one of those people who can identify how those beliefs have developed over time and what out of the Bible is really our foundation for that.”
Smith described Youngblood as a “Christian gentleman who is kind and compassionate in every way.”
“He’s a great man,” Smith added. “No one can say a negative thing about him. He’s tough on his students, but they know he’ll be fair with them.”
Youngblood said he’s a bit of an old-school instructor who still believes that lectures are the foundation of teaching principles. And he begins every class with a time for prayer, taking the duties upon himself for freshman classes and relying on juniors and seniors in upper-level classes.
“I grew up on lectures,” Youngblood said. “I realize there needs to be a variety of teaching methods, etc., but there is a reason why we have a system where we’re called professors, because we’re supposed to profess, or lecture.
“I don’t teach Bible or theology, I teach students. And what I teach them is Bible or theology.”
Sue Myers, coordinator of church resources at GCU, is a former student of Youngblood’s.
“What I loved about him, way back when classes were even smaller, was he was very interested in his students,” Myers said. “I enjoyed that aspect of it. He wasn’t just a teacher.”
A different kind of ministry
Youngblood grew up in a Christian household, moving from Texas to Oklahoma to Kansas while his father worked on oil pipelines. He made his commitment to Jesus Christ when he was 11 years old, but initially went to college at Texas Tech as a math major. During his sophomore year, he said he felt God’s calling to prepare for vocational ministry, so he transferred to Hardin-Simmons University – a Christian liberal-arts school in Abilene, Texas — where he earned his bachelor’s degree. He later received his master of divinity and his Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Longest-Tenured Employees/ Yrs of Service Michael Baird 34 Clark Youngblood 31 Claude Pensis 31 Keith Baker 30.5 Charles Maxson 29.5 Faith Weese 27 Cheryl Roat 26 Larry Barron 26 Petar Draksin 23 Anna Faith Smith 23 William Kuehl 23
He became an ordained minister and had two stints as a pastor, in West Virginia and Nebraska, before feeling the urge to teach. He applied at many Christian universities and one night in 1982 got a conference call after church from GCU’s Dr. D.C. Martin (chair of the department), Dr. J. Niles Puckett (the school’s founding Bible professor) and Baird.
He got his first full-time teaching job and has been here ever since.
“In making that move, I considered this to be my ministry, my calling,” Youngblood said. “Some people say, ‘Why did you leave the ministry?’ Well, I didn’t. I just shifted the type of ministry.”
Baird said there are a lot of similarities between Puckett and Youngblood in that both are what he called “Southern gentlemen” – Youngblood just doesn’t have Puckett’s heavy accent.
“He’s just a kind, caring soul,” Baird said of Youngblood. “And he’s a very good scholar. He knows his stuff.”
After Puckett and Martin retired, Baird and Youngblood began going to lunch once a week. Soon other faculty members joined in. Now, 20 years later, that weekly lunch date has become a tradition in the College of Theology.
“He and I have guarded that carefully,” Baird said. “Sometimes I would be the one who would make sure everyone knew where we were going and what time. But most of the time (Youngblood) was the organizer. I told him that, even though he’s retiring, he’s still got to come to lunch with us.”
In addition to the weekly College of Theology faculty lunch on Thursdays, Youngblood eats lunch every Tuesday with Dr. Larry Barron, a professor with the College of Arts and Sciences.
“We have commiserated over the highs and lows of teaching,” said Barron, another long-timer who came to GCU in 1987. “He just has a great sense of humor. And he has deep theological convictions, although he doesn’t try to force them on people.”
In it for the long haul
Through the years, Barron said Youngblood “has provided a sense of stability and continuity to the University.”
In just his second year at GCU, Youngblood established a chapter for Alpha Chi, a national honor society that promotes academic excellence and honors top students from all academic disciplines. He has overseen it ever since, even serving on the national council for many years (eight as its president).
For Youngblood, teaching never was about climbing the corporate ladder or looking for better-paying jobs at other schools.
“I remember years ago I was listening to some tapes of a Bible scholar – I can’t remember his name — and he talked about when you are where God wants you, you have a sense of being ‘put,’” Youngblood said. “Yes, there were frustrations with different things like there are in all jobs … but, I guess for me, God said, ‘You’re put.’ Maybe that’s why I’ve been here 31 years.”
Contact Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.