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ISSUE 115 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 4/26/2002

Meet faculty gem Charles Wilson

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 26, 2002

Have you ever seen the spitting image of Santa Claus walking around campus? That would be St. Olaf religion professor "The Great" Charles Wilson. His office, located on the top floor of the chapel, is littered with more books and texts than one could ever hope to read in a lifetime. Professor Wilson is a St. Olaf graduate and attended graduate school for nine years at Luther seminary, The University of Chicago and Harvard Divinity School. Harvard Divinity School graduates only 30 or 40 people a year. He has traveled to at least 50 countries and taken several trips to Asia. It's no wonder that Wilson's claim to fame isn't his likeness to Santa Claus. Wilson is one of the true jewels of St. Olaf College. I had him for my first year religion course, which was a memorable experience. He expressed ideas that lit up the class's attention like a brush fire. I distinctly remember classmates quoting his ideas after class such as "The Theology of Chilling." Wilson teaches in a way that not only challenges the views and ideals of the class but he also offers a variety of solutions. He brings the text alive in such a neutral and passionate way that it proclaims his love for religion and his life goal: teaching. The wake that he creates leaves students questioning and searching for truth in every nook and cranny. Beyond classes and lectures, Wilson engages in fishing, cooking, music, gardening and the opera. Currently, he is taking a semester sabbatical to work on a book and several essays. When I asked him what his favorite book was, he immediately replied The Phenomenology of the Spirit" and said that everyone should read it. Halfway through the interview, I asked him about his fonder memories of college. Once I asked that question it was like a bolt of lightening struck him and a sincere jolt of enthusiasm came from him. If there is one great quality that Wilson has, it is storytelling. He whisked me away to a night when he and his buds decided to go to the Guthrie to see Hume Crayn and Jessica Tweet in a play. "It only cost one or two dollars," he said, but we were so close that we could feel their spit. On a daily basis, Wilson dives into the big and unanswerable questions. However, in such a complicated practice he still manages to put a simple twist to things. His office hours are taped to his door, but he will always accept an invitation to coffee, lunch or talk. He will readily give you answers and paths to the unexplained and everyday questions. You never know what you're going to get when you talk to Wilson. It can range from the problem of evil to the new girlfriend, but you will always leave with a smile. So if you know what's good for you, you'll take one of Professor Wilson's classes. His questions and lectures will hit you like a battering ram, questioning and challenging the very ideas to which we cling. Challenges are not bad when it comes to Wilson's questions. They always lead to great answers.

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