By Taylor Murray
On 2 May 2018, hundreds of people filled the Sheldon L. Fountain Commons at Acadia University to celebrate the career of an extraordinary Canadian Baptist: Dr. Robert S. Wilson (affectionately known to all as “Dr. Bob”). He served as the Dean of Arts and Professor of History at the Atlantic Baptist College (now Crandall University) from 1971 to 1991, and as Professor of Church History at Acadia Divinity College from 1991 to 2018. With the conclusion of the Winter 2018 semester, he retired as the Thomas J. Armstrong Memorial Senior Professor of Church History.
The sizeable crowd was a testimony to the successful career of this important Baptist historian. His work has helped Atlantic Baptists (and Canadian Baptists as a whole) discover their identity. He made important contributions both to town and gown – the pulpit and the pew. As Acadia’s “resident layperson,” he was always invested in the life of the church and in cultivating strong leaders for the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada. Through his career, he served on nearly every board and council in the Convention, including a term as the President in 1998–1999.
In my conversations with him leading up to the celebration, he ticketed the event as a healthy dose of “toast and roast.” Each speaker had his or her own story of appreciation for our dear Dr. Bob. Speakers included representatives from Convention, Crandall University, and Acadia Divinity College; as well as reflections from former students and his children. The Rev. Dr. John Bartol, an elder statesman in the Convention, gave the benediction.
Throughout the evening we were treated to a selection of musical numbers, including several from Dr. Bob’s own quartet (pictured below). Also, worth noting, three members of the Acadia community paid tribute to Dr. Bob in an excellent re-written version of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence.
If there is any truth in the adage, “behind every great man is an even greater woman,” I think Dr. Bob would contend it is true in his case. It was a blessing to hear from Myrna (picture above), Dr. Bob’s wife of 53 (!) years.
On a personal note, Dr. Bob has meant a lot to our family. He taught my mother (who was one of his first students ever, pictured on his right) and he taught me (one of his last students ever, pictured on his left) – plus he taught my father-in-law. When my mother was his student, he had her babysit his children on several occasions. I thought this was fitting, because years later he was tasked with babysitting me as a lost graduate student!
I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him.
Thank you, Dr. Bob.
Taylor Murray is a PhD student in Church History at McMaster Divinity College. Before coming to MDC, he completed an MA in Christian History at Acadia Divinity College, Acadia University. He is a Member at Large with the Canadian Baptist Historical Society.
**The views of this Blog represent those of the author, and not necessarily the CBHS.**