Beauty comes in many forms, first and foremost the art of glorifying God. Through different talents and the discipline of those talents, we can dedicate our heads and hearts to praise. Two examples of people who use their disciplines as praise are Dr. Brian Hartley and Professor Amanda Helman. Dr. Hartley has committed his life to his passion for scholarship, through which he seeks God and yearns to learn more about Him. In contrast, Professor Helman sees God in visual art, and pursues His beauty by creating her own. As both professors grow in their disciplines, they share their passions with their students and cultivate an environment of glorifying God in diverse ways.
In 1979, Dr. Brian Hartley graduated from Greenville College with a Bachelor of Arts in English. As is the case with most college graduates, Dr. Hartley began to ponder the next steps for his future, and then eventually realized that God was calling him to ministry. He pursued and received a Master of Divinity in Biblical Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, including a year spent in London, England. In 1985, two years after graduating from Princeton, Hartley did graduate work in Literary Criticism at Oklahoma State University. After becoming a professor at Greenville in 1993, he continued his education by completing a PhD in Historical Theology at St. Louis University in 2004. Hartley is now the Vice President of Academic Affairs and remains a professor in the theology department.
Hartley married his wife Darlene in 1978 after she graduated from Greenville College. They have two daughters: Emily, who has a PhD in Educational Research, and Evangeline, who lives in Juno, Alaska. Both are also graduates of GC. Hartley has four grandchildren and one on the way. An introvert by nature, Hartley described his perfect day as “a day in the 60s or 70s (I’d even take rain), a cup of coffee, a good book, my wife by my side, and quiet.”
Growing up in primarily Arkansas and Oklahoma, Hartley was immersed in Christianity from the time he was born. His family was deeply rooted in the Free Methodist church;
Hartley is the fifth generation of clergy. His parents traveled back from the West Coast to Arkansas when Hartley was a year old so that his grandfather could baptize him. “I don’t have one of those great salvation stories in which I never knew Christ and I was a bad boy and then came to Christ,” Hartley said. “It was really just learning to embrace the teachings that my grandparents and parents were passing on to me. There were several moments in that journey when I had to make choices that I could point back to, but my story is really one of growing up in the warm embrace of Mother Church.” Hartley explained how the biggest struggle at the beginning of his faith journey was figuring out how to marry the head and the heart. “I had these passions in my heart but I also have always been a very head-driven person, and those two pieces of my life oftentimes developed differently.” He said that places like Greenville and Princeton helped him figure out how to bring together his “heartfelt passions” with the “life of the mind.” “That’s what I want to pass on to my students: how do you bring those two aspects of your life together?”
Hartley decided to return to Greenville as a professor because he and his wife were passionate about GC’s mission, and “saw this as a way of extending [their] vocation.” After teaching for almost twenty years, Hartley was asked to also take on the role of Dean of Arts and Sciences. “I soon found myself moving into the Senior Dean lead position,” Hartley explained, “Partly because Arts and Sciences is the largest of the schools, partly because I just lasted longer than other people in that role. I tended to have more ‘institutional memory’ than others because I’d been around longer.” Last year President Filby and Dr. Estevez asked Hartley to become the Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs. Hartley described his role: “The primary thing I do is work with faculty, help deliver the curriculum, and oversee the academic wing. I do enjoy this, partially because it gives me opportunities to help empower younger faculty. Also, I’ve been investing a lot of my time trying to help the deans and empower them to do their work. I try to make sure that we’re delivering the overall best curriculum we can for the students.”
An engaging and thoughtful professor, Hartley loves to see his students “come alive around ideas.” According to him, that’s the reason that most professors are here at Greenville; they love the opportunity to be heavily engaged in the lives of their students. Hartley sees this extension of his scholarship as a way to further glorify God. His favorite course to teach is Introduction to Worship, because it is his primary passion. “I also enjoy teaching basic courses in theology because I’m challenging a lot of assumptions that students have and helping students stretch in areas that they’ve probably not thought a lot about.”
Not only is Hartley an incredible teacher and essential asset to the school, but he is also a deep thinker and scholar. “Most of my scholarship comes out of a combination of my real interests,” Hartley said, describing his passions. “I was both a lover of English literature and of theology, so I always looked for a way of bringing those things together. So much of what I write is in the field of worship and preaching. My focus has been primarily on what occurred in sixteenth century England, which is my favorite period in literature.”
Hartley is teaching a class in the spring on his favorite books in the New Testament, the Pauline Epistles. He is drawn to the Pauline Epistles because of their realism and relatability. “They are attractive to me because they give us a firsthand view of the early church. I think oftentimes we have what I call a rose-colored view of the early church, like they stood around and sang Kumbaya and everybody loved one another, but the Pauline Epistles give us a very different picture of the church: a church that’s dysfunctional at times and one in which people are at one another’s throats. The early church is just trying to figure out what it means to serve the crucified and risen Christ.” Hartley finds his mission in participating in the technological world no more than absolutely necessary, and finds his solace in his pursuit of excellence in the fields of theology and literature.
Also a Greenville Alumnus, Professor Amanda Helman is Greenville’s newest Art professor. She graduated in 2012 with a degree in Art and a minor in a Philosophy. After graduating, she pursued her passion further and attended Washington University in St. Louis, where she received her Masters in Fine Arts. While at Washington University, she won the Graduate Student Cite Residency Award, which was an artist residency in Paris, France. She lived on the River Seine, right across from Notre Dame, and had the opportunity to create art in a studio there for two months before returning to her home in St. Louis.
Professor Helman grew up in Orlando, Florida as the youngest of five children. She says she loved having a big family, and now has nine nieces and nephews. Helman lives in South City in St. Louis with her husband Ben, another graduate of Greenville College. They have two fat cats, Winston and Marshall, both of which Amanda found on campus when she was a student at GC.
Helman returned to Greenville this semester to begin her teaching career. “It just seemed like the perfect place,” she exclaimed. “I loved it here and hope to challenge and provide a different perspective to my students.” She continued, “It is very surreal to walk on Scott Field or eat in the DC, but I love it! My four years here were some of the best and I’m excited to be back.” Helman teaches Drawing I and Independent Studio. Her favorite of the two is Independent Studio, which is a class in which students have their own studio space in the basement of Maves and work on individual projects throughout the semester. “We get to talk about art and I get to see what their creative minds are coming up with in their own studio. They are very talented! They inspire me. I l love talking about art and it’s inspiring to hear their ideas and ambitions.” Helman’s favorite part about teaching is watching the students grow and learn. “In my drawing class, most of my students have never drawn before, and already they are making huge strides. It’s cool to look back at their first drawings and see all the progress they have made.”
“Growing up in a Christian home, we tend to believe what our parents taught us without thinking for ourselves.” Helman grew up in a such a home, and began asking her mom about Jesus at age five. Since then, her faith has undergone ups and downs, but Greenville College helped her grow in her faith. “It was my time at Greenville that really pushed me to reevaluate my beliefs, and I mean that in a good way! I was able to break down those beliefs and then build them back up to become my own way of thinking. My time at Greenville was really very formative for me.” Professor Helman’s favorite chapter in the Bible is Genesis 1, because, “it is the story of the very first artist putting paint to canvas.”
Being creative is Helman’s primary passion. “I think being creative and making things is one of the truest ways to demonstrate God; He was, after all, the first artist.” Helman finds herself closest to God when creating, and finds art to be her way to love God actively. Art, to her, is meditation. “I get lost in the different ways my hands or my body are moving in order to create something.” Helmanís creativity goes beyond art; she started a small company with her sister called Golden Gems. Golden Gems specializes in handmade accessories and goods. They currently sell their products on Etsy and in shops around St. Louis, Chicago, Nashville, Des Moines, and Montreal. Professor Helman’s dream is that the business would become extremely successful.
Regarding the future of Greenville as it transitions into a university, Professor Helman hopes to see the Art department expand. “It’s very small, but I think we have so much to offer here, and I would love to see more art on campus; I would love to generally get the rest of the school involved with what we’re doing. I want to see more students interacting with art and being challenged by the things weíre creating and the questions weíre asking.”
One of the most beautiful things about God is the many ways he has created to worship and connect to him. Different people have different connections with God, whether through literature or through visual art. Students here at GC have the honor of learning under professors who pour their hearts into their passions and hone their disciplines in pursuit of Christ. This theme of glorifying God in many disciplines is one of the main purposes of a liberal arts education; students are immersed in many different fields to learn to connect with God in different ways. Dr. Hartley and Professor Helman exemplify just two of these disciplines, and our campus is enriched by their passion and knowledge.
by Mandy Pennington