Baylor Theology Professor Ralph Wood Awarded Prize for Wisdom and Virtue

September 6, 2018
Ralph Wood

Baylor University theologian Ralph Wood, Ph.D., was recently presented with the 2018 Russell Kirk Paideia Prize in honor of his lifetime of dedication to the cultivation of wisdom and virtue

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by Gabrielle White, student newswriter

WACO, Texas (Sept. 6, 2018) – Baylor University theologian Ralph Wood, Ph.D., was recently presented with the 2018 Russell Kirk Paideia Prize in honor of his lifetime of dedication to the cultivation of wisdom and virtue.

Wood has been University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor since 1998 and has been honored with more than 15 awards. However, Wood said he values this prize tremendously because it honors education.

“Since I am first and last and always a teacher, this award only ranks alongside three others, those awarded to me for education,” Wood said. “Winning this award means sheer astonishment and gratitude. I am staggered with surprise and humbled with thanksgiving at receiving such an honor.”

The Paideia Prize is presented by the CiRCE Institute, the Center for Independent Research on Classical Education. The CiRCE Institute regularly uses Wood’s essays about virtue and J.R.R. Tolkien in its curriculum, earning him the nomination for the award.

In his classes, Wood attempts to never teach the same texts and often varies curriculum through different translations. He teaches Great Texts: 18th and 19th Centuries and said he strives for a deeper understanding of these texts.

“I am inspired to seek even fuller and deeper understanding of the great formative texts and ideas, the leading convictions and practices of the various Western traditions,” Wood said. “They are inexhaustibly rich in the ways they both complement and clash with each other— thus shaping our hearts and souls, our bodies and minds.”

Although the CiRCE Institute honored Wood for his theological work, Wood said humanities professors do not only inspire humanities students. He shared that many of his students have become journalists, physicians, attorneys and money managers.

“To this day, I admire how he grabs the minds of his students and encourages lifelong learning,” said Ann Rawls, COO at Tucker Psychiatric Clinic, Inc. “His arms are always open to students current and former.”

One former student said Wood has opened his home to students as a place of refuge and healing.

“If I had to pay up for all the meals and night’s lodgings that I have logged in the Wood household, I’d be broke,” said John Sykes, Mary and Harry Brown Professor of English and Religion at Wingate University. “And their hospitality has always included spiritual refuge— prayer, advice, commiseration, a lifting up of friends and family. Ralph shows students not just how to think, but how to be.”

After receiving the Paideia Prize, Wood was asked to serve on the decision board to help nominate the 2019 recipient. Candidates are chosen based on their work that the CiRCE Institute has used and can be a wide spectrum of people such as: homeschool teachers, classical teachers or professors. The board is made up of about a dozen people of various professions that support CiRCE, and the nomination must be unanimous.

Wood’s current works consist of two research projects. The first is an essay about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, author of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and the way in which his vision is distinctively Eastern Orthodox. The second project is about Chesterton’s Apologetics, a formal branch of Christian theology that defends the Christian faith against objectors.

Through his current class and his two projects, Wood aims to go deeper and engage more fully in every aspect of life.

“I have an unabated passion for the theological and literary texts I teach, and I hope that my students continue to join me in learning to think and live in accord with them,” he said.

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Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.