A Humble Follower of Christ

October 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Nilson Award Winners, Recent FCMMs

Susan Siaw,
Cal Poly Pomona
2009-2010 Nilson Award

[Oct 31, 2010] —
A humble follower of Christ. A powerful influence on a secular university campus.

That is others’ opinion of Susan Siaw,Professor of Developmental Psychology at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She is the 2009-2010 winner of the Nilson Award, which is given annually to an outstanding Christian professor.

Here is what Cheryl Lee, a former Faculty Commons staff member, wrote about Susan:

“I first met Susan Siaw about 14 years ago, when we started a faculty/staff group on her campus. Susan began organizing the group to print ads in the campus newspaper identifying professors and staff as Christians. She helped organize luncheons for visiting speakers. After hearing Mary Poplin speak at a regional conference, she invited Mary to speak at Cal Poly Pomona as an evangelistic outreach for faculty, staff, and students.

“Susan has continued to lead the weekly Christian Faculty Forum on campus. Sometimes the focus is prayer; sometimes there is a discussion of a book or video series. The purpose of the forum is to equip professors and staff and to encourage community.

“Susan promotes community with students as well. She invited students to have dinner with her before a Campus Crusade event so they could discuss spiritual issues. When she learned that her university was sponsoring a lunchtime study of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins she invited several other Christian professors to attend with her. As a result, they were able to dialogue with other professors about some of the weaknesses in Dawkins’ arguments, and give a face to Christianity among their colleagues.

“Susan demonstrates how a humble follower of Christ can have a powerful influence on a secular university campus. She has steadfastly declined the title of president or chairperson of the faculty forum, yet she has faithfully and effectively fulfilled that role at Cal Poly Pomona for many years.”

This kind of humble service for Christ is at the heart of our ministry, and it was for Erick Nilson as well. He was a member of the Department of Agronomy at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, for more than 24 years before his retirement in 1989.

In the middle 1980s Christian Leadership Ministries (now Faculty Commons) approached Erick to consider beginning a faculty-staff ministry at Kansas State. Erick prayerfully considered the opportunity and agreed to take leadership.

Despite a relatively large number of Christian faculty and staff at the university, the idea of beginning a Christian faculty-staff ministry was not greeted warmly by all. In the early days there was actually quite a bit of opposition on all fronts.

Despite the discouragement Erick decided never to give up—when nearly everybody else thought it was a bad idea to start the ministry, Erick concluded that God plus one was a majority. Indeed, he did begin the faculty-staff ministry there and served as its first president the year before his retirement.

In 1990, following Erick’s Home-going, his family set aside funds for our ministry to recognize “the men and women of God that He is raising up to forward His cause at the university.” The award has been made annually since 1990 and the award winners have been truly outstanding examples of what it means to be a Christian professor.

[Previous Nilson Award Recipients ]

You’ve Got What It Takes

Tim Davis,
Computer and Information Science and Engineering Department,
University of Florida

[Oct. 24, 2010] —

“We just want to get to the root of the problem and find out where the tentacles are.” That’s how my friend described the agenda for a meeting called to address my concerns about a critical problem we faced.

The Real Agenda

However, at the meeting I was blindsided and completely unprepared. The real agenda was to criticize me for raising my concerns. I had been intentionally misled. It felt like a knife in the back, and I left the meeting stunned.

The unresolved critical problem proved to be the most serious spiritual crisis I had ever encountered — something much worse than being misled. As it turned out, the events of the next few months would require me to grow in several areas of my life and faith.

In the past this growth would have been difficult, because I lost my father when I was 12. The loss came in stages through his adultery, divorce, and finally suicide. Even before he died, my Dad rarely invested himself in me, and I carried the wound for years.

The Wound Would Reopen

When a real crunch would come the wound would reopen and I would think, “I don’t have what it takes. I never had a father.” It was like putting all my weight down on a leg that had been broken and partly healed, but never set quite right.

But in the past two years, God had been healing me fully. He reminded me that He is my Father, and I am His beloved son. Paul writes “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:4b-6, NASB)

The wound given 37 years ago had been finally healed.

My friend sought me out to ask my forgiveness for his willful deception. He said, “I know this must have been hard on you, because of your struggle with not feeling adequate because of your father.”

I readily forgave my friend and told him I appreciated his concern, but the wound from my father just hadn’t come to mind. I did what I needed to do,whereas in the past I would have copped out.

The pressures in academia are great. The road from assistant to associate to full professor is not easy. At times we can all feel inadequate, and wonder, “Will I have what it takes to succeed or even survive? Will I be able to keep the pace and not have my research go stale?”


Our Heavenly Father has promised, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a, NASB). The past does not have to be an obstacle that can never be overcome.

Trials will come, but we can face them in His strength. In Him, you’ve got what it takes. And so do I.

© 2010 Tim Davis

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