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Faculty Feature: Dr. Richard Follett
Faculty Feature is a series in the Blue Tribune that recognizes the excellent professors and staff of Covenant College through a series of questions.
This week we're highlighting Dr. Richard Follett, Professor of History.
What brought you to Covenant? How long have you been teaching?
When I saw the advertisement for the position in summer of 2000, it looked like a possible good fit for me. I was at the time involved in New City Fellowship in St. Louis, MO, and so familiar with the PCA, but was then only teaching part time. I began at Covenant College in August 2001, and so have been here for 20 academic years now.
What do you love about teaching at Covenant?
The students are (at least mostly) eager to learn, and learn to work through their courses. This makes the teaching far more enjoyable than what I experienced before starting here.
What is your history with the PCA or Reformed Tradition?
I came into contact with Reformed theology during my undergraduate years. Part of this came through involvement with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, but we also had a group at our Evangelic Free Church who were exploring Calvinism and the writings of some in the tradition who came after him.
My experience with the PCA proper began while I was in grad school, when my wife and I got involved with PCA churches in St. Louis - we spent some time with Memorial Presbyterian Church, then with Grace and Peace Fellowship, before moving to the start up of New City Fellowship in St. Louis under Rev. Barry Henning.
What's your favorite Covenant tradition?
What is a current research project or area of interest you're excited about?
For several years I've gathered information on a law reformer and abolitionist in 19th-century Britain by the name of Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786-1845), who was late in his life knighted for his efforts. Buxton was recruited by William Wilberforce (1759-1833) in the early 1820s to take on leadership of the antislavery campaign, when the elder leader realized he was becoming less effective and decided he should step down from his seat in Parliament. It was during Buxton's period of leadership that Britain finally abolished slavery in its empire, but his life encompasses several other reform efforts as well. He's also a bit fun, because before he entered Parliament, he made his fortune as a manager and owner of what would become one of the largest beer brewing companies in 19th-century Britain.
All my research has yielded a rough draft of a biography (with a few episodes still to be written), and I hope to finish a full working draft in the coming year or two.
Beyond this project, I have a strong interest in the history of London, England, and broad interests in British history and the history political theory in the modern era.
What's one of your favorite cultural or family traditions?
Until recent years, family traditions at Thanksgiving have been my personal favorite. With my kids moving on, and my broader family dispersed as well, our gatherings have been less "traditional" and more spread out, but I still like that time of year.
Anything else prospective students should know about you?
I have a reputation for being tough but fair - and even if I appear a bit gruff at first, of being nonetheless very concerned with students' progress and abilities. I will not waste a student's time in my classes, but students will have to do the work to succeed.
Tell us a little about your family:
Most of my extended Follett family is in Arizona. My wife, Altha, and I have raised three children during our time here, Katheryn (b. 1993), Molly (b. 1995), and Avi (b.2000). Katheryn has recently moved to Birmingham, AL, and has an abiding interest in costume make-up art, Molly is an accomplished cook and aspiring pastry chef in Atlanta, GA. Although with us most of this past year due to the Covid-19, Avi is studying writing and art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, and will be a senior in the coming year (graduating, God willing, in May 2022).
How do you or your department encourage each student to pursue academic excellence?
Besides personal academic advising, we put a strong emphasis on writing and analysis of texts and ideas, in courses that begin with some basic methods for historical study, through several content areas, and then culminating in a three-course sequence that enables a student to complete a Capstone project. By the time students are seniors, they will have learned a large number of skills which are demonstrated in the Capstone project, but which also translate to many applications beyond historical study.