The Dallas Willard Chair for Christian Spiritual Formation at Friends University
I am writing to share an amazing new development at the Apprentice Institute at Friends University – the creation of the Dallas Willard Chair for Christian Spiritual Formation. This will be an endowed chair, which means it will be around forever.
You may ask, “Why?” There are many reasons. First, having an endowed chair is an indication the University feels strongly about the subject being taught. This is a clear demonstration of Friends’ commitment to spiritual formation. Second, as mentioned, this chair will go on in perpetuity; the commitment will endure through future decades. Third, by naming it the Dallas Willard chair, we acknowledge the crucial role Dallas and his work played in the development of the Apprentice Institute and the Christian spiritual formation program at Friends University.
I first met Dallas as a student at Friends in 1984 when he spoke at chapel. We met again, in 1987, along with Richard Foster, as we founded the renewal ministry, Renovaré. We traveled and spoke together at events, but it wasn‘t until 1994 that our relationship really grew. Dallas asked me to serve as his teaching assistant at a Fuller Theological Seminary two-week course. I eagerly agreed. Over the next seven years, I sat under his teaching for 70-plus days. Our most important time was spent over meals and traveling together.
Dallas’ teaching and writing greatly impacted the Good and Beautiful series. Those books formed the framework for the Christian spiritual formation program at Friends University. Dallas spoke at the first Apprentice national conference. While he was here he was able to see all we do first hand, and Dallas was proud of what we created. At one point he looked at me with a smile and said, “You did it, James. You really did it.” Though the idea of the Willard chair came after his passing, I am certain he would be honored, as is the Willard family.
To fund the Dallas Willard position chair we need to raise $2 million. The yearly earnings provided by this endowment will significantly underwrite a large percentage of the Apprentice Institute’s operating budget. This will allow us not only to sustain the Apprentice Institute but expand its reach. We have already received some substantial gifts, putting us well on our way to reaching our goal.
I hope and pray you will consider making a gift in honor of the work we are doing and also in honor of our dear friend and mentor, Dallas Willard. In doing so, you will help ensure Dallas’ legacy, the future of the Apprentice Institute and the future of the spiritual formation movement at Friends University.
James Bryan Smith
Executive Director, Apprentice Institute
Associate Professor, Friends University