Ouachita Baptist University hosted internationally respected scholar Dr. Gerald Pillay on Nov. 15 as part of the university’s Birkett Williams Lecture Series. Pillay’s lecture addressed the status of and challenges facing global higher education, emphasizing that “Christian foundations influence universities all around the world.
Pillay serves as vice chancellor and rector of Liverpool Hope University in the United Kingdom, a university with which Ouachita has recently entered into an international education partnership. Pillay is respected throughout the world for his scholarly work, having served on the faculty of institutions in South Africa, New Zealand and the U.S. He earned his Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Divinity and Doctor of Theology degrees from the University of Durban in South Africa as well as his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Rhodes University in South Africa.
Pillay explained that from the start, the world’s first universities were faith-based. Today, this principle still rings true for many universities. Institutions such as Liverpool Hope and Ouachita need to join together with one common goal, he said, to make a difference and seek truth throughout the world.
“It is a great opportunity to bring an English university alongside an American university and to create pathways between both our intuitions,” Pillay said. “In some ways, it’s easy because we have a common mission and vision about the world. We can do much more together.”
Although Pillay acknowledged he is unsure about what the future holds, he said is confident about Ouachita’s and Liverpool Hope’s purpose in the world. “As a church foundation, we bring a great vision about the world. We want to make a difference to our world,” he said. “Every one of our staff members and students must have that in mind. We must have the judgment to know what knowledge is and what information is not. Our world needs wise people, not just clever people.”
It is important to remember, Pillay added, that “good universities allow freedom of thought, to think and question. We not only seek truth, but we’re seeking beauty and goodness, as well. For the Christian university, these three things are non-negotiable.”
Pillay was hosted as part of Ouachita’s 125th anniversary celebration. In addition to delivering a Birkett Williams lecture, he spoke during Ouachita’s Tuesday morning chapel service.
Ian Cosh, Ouachita’s vice president for community and international engagement and chair of the 125th anniversary steering committee, affirmed the opportunity “to have an educator with Professor Pillay’s extensive international experience on our campus to share his insights with every member of the campus community.”
Ouachita’s Birkett Williams lecture series was established in 1977 through a gift from the late Birkett L. Williams, a 1910 Ouachita graduate. His generous endowment established the lectures as an opportunity to extend the concepts of a liberal arts education beyond the classroom by bringing outstanding scholars and public figures to Ouachita’s campus.
By Lacey Brooks