Editor’s note: We are honored to publish a remembrance of our founder, William Monsma, who died on June 15.
Dr. Chris Macosko, professor of chemical engineering & materials science here at the U of M, and a long-time friend of William’s, delivered this remembrance at William’s memorial service on July 10 at Hope Church. You can read other tributes to William here.
Thank you, Mary Beth and family, for inviting me to speak at this celebration of William’s life. He and I met shortly after he had founded the MacLaurin Institute at the University of Minnesota. He had been in campus ministry with Intervarsity but felt called to focus on faculty and to make the Christian worldview known in the academy. I was a young professor struggling with reconciling my relatively new-found faith in Jesus and my scientific training. To find a campus minister with a doctorate in theoretical physics and a master’s in divinity along with postdoctoral work in the history of science plus college teaching experience was an amazing gift to me. It was a time when Carl Sagan filled our TVs with “the Cosmos is all there is, all there was and all there ever will be.” William helped me to see God’s hand in his marvelous creation, only He is all there is, ever was, and ever will be. We had long talks about science and the scriptures. We wrote and received a Templeton Foundation grant for a freshman seminar at the University of Minnesota called “Origins: By Chance or by Design?” I learned as much from William and the writings that he directed me to as the students did. William graciously introduced me to other Christian faculty and invited me to join the MacLaurin board.
After this Kathleen and I joined Hope Church and our families became friends. Our daughter, Brynne, took Homework and Hoops kids to Camp Ojibway, where William’s son Jonathan was a counselor. His daughter Anne and our son Jed were in Hope’s youth group and musical. We even took family trips together to the Boundary Waters. I can still remember crawling into my sleeping bag in our tent the second evening and hearing William saying calmly, “Oh no, I knew it would happen. That tube of athletes’ foot medicine does look too much like my toothpaste tube.” An absent minded professor after my own heart!
When Jed was struggling between continuing on to a PhD in chemistry or going to seminary, he sought counsel from William. When Kathleen was a new pastor, she sought William’s advice in preparing her sermons. He was generous with his time, always ready to answer the phone—even on Saturday night! “He knows so much!” she would exclaim as she put down the phone.
More recently we were planning a sabbatical stay in Israel. Although they were already struggling with Parkinson’s, Mary Beth and William invited us over for dinner. They shared with us about the powerful course that they had taken at University College Jerusalem, “The History and Geography of Ancient Israel.” It had been the fulfillment of a lifetime dream for William, and when we took the course at his suggestion we understood why.
I love the picture that the family chose for the bulletin [above]. William is looking out over the sea from the chapel beside the cave on Patmos Island where John wrote his Revelation. I imagine William is talking with John now about the Word to the 5 churches and all of his questions are no longer questions.