Sunday, July 13, 2014

Chris Mitchell

So, Friday brought the unexpected sad news that Chris Mitchell, former head of the Wade, had died suddenly the night before. He'd been out enjoying a hiking and fishing trip with friends when he suddenly collapsed; apparently it was all over within minutes. Which isn't a bad way to go -- no long lingering illness -- but hard on those left behind, who thought they'd be able to enjoy his friendship for years to come (he was just sixty-two). And I'm sure it's very hard on his family to cope with the sudden loss.

I got to know Chris when he came to the Wade Center, replacing Lyle Dorsett (also a scholar and a gentleman) who wanted to get back into teaching. Chris was an excellent Director, making scholars from around the world feel welcome, healing old rifts, and expanding the collection in a lot of interesting ways (for example, by acquiring the papers of scholars who'd worked on Lewis or other Wade authors). I didn't get to see him that often -- usually once or twice a year -- but I always enjoyed our get-togethers when I did. About a year or so ago he left Wheaton in order to be able to spend more time teaching and in scholarship: his current big project was a close look at C. S. Lewis's THE ABOLITION OF MAN. It's a good indicator of Chris's talents that while I think this one of CSL's worst books, I was looking forward to seeing what Chris had to say about it, to see if I cd appreciate any virtues it might have through Chris's eyes.  

For those who weren't lucky enough to know him in person, luckily there are a number of pieces of him online -- such as a lecture he gave at Seattle Pacific University ("C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien: Scholars and Friends") available through i-Tunes, and some videotaped lectures at the Biola College site via the following link:

I also have a four-dvd set of Chris presenting a series of lectures on MERE CHRISTIANITY (another work I rank relatively low among CSL's books, and hence am looking forward to hearing what in it Chris found so appealing). This is something I picked up at Wheaton; from the packaging it seems to be  part of something called THE C. S. LEWIS STUDY PROGRAM sponsored by a group called 'The C. S. Lewis Institute' I hadn't gotten around to watching it, but I think working my way through it now would be a good way to celebrate Chris's life and work.

Here' a link to a Biola University site* telling of Chris's sudden death

And here's what Wheaton College has to say at its own site:

Beyond that, I don't really know what to say. Since I only saw Chris once or twice a year, the reality of his absence won't be felt at first, until those meetings fail to happen, and then keep on failing to happen, from now on.

He was a good man, a scholar and a gentleman. Rest in Peace.

--John R.

*thanks to Carl, who was the first from whom I heard the news, for the link

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