Douglas Henry on the Author Bank
Douglas Henry is the Dean of Baylor University’s Honors College. He is a member of the CLT Board of Academic Advisors and most recently served as a panelist to create the new revision of the Author Bank.
CLT: Thank you for your help in developing our new and revised Author Bank! What was your process of deciding which authors to incorporate?
DH: CLT’s Author Bank includes great writers in whose works we variously discern loveliness, moral insight, and wisdom that has stood the test of time. They address, in one way or another, the human condition. By that I mean that we lift high those authors that invite self-reflective participation in the age-old exploration of what it means to be rational and mortal animals, yet who because of our limits and failings often fall tragically short of our best possibilities.
CLT: You’ve been an active leader at CLT despite your undoubtedly busy schedule as Dean of the Honors College at Baylor University. Why did you want to become involved?
DH: CLT has brought tremendously needed intellectual leadership to the realm of standardized testing within American secondary and higher education. I admire CLT’s effort to break the stranglehold of business-as-usual standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, with their least-common-denominator cultural banality. By offering an alternative measure of what’s important—one that holds high authors, ideas, and texts addressed to substantive visions of truth, beauty, and goodness—CLT supports the kind of deep learning and self-reflective critical judgment that we all say we desire in ourselves and our students. These are certainly the kinds of qualities we desire of undergraduates in Baylor’s Honors College, so given such shared aims, it was easy for me to become involved with CLT.
CLT: We’re very happy that you chose to share your skills and thoughts with us. So, as you know, here at CLT we seek to reintroduce truth, beauty, and goodness to modern education. What is important about this mission to you?
DH: We live in a coarse, vulgar age marked by pervasive vanity, preening celebrity, self-promoting plutocrats, and utilitarian decision-making oriented around ephemera such as pleasure, power, fame, wealth, and honor. In these things, one of my favorite authors, Boethius, rightly understands there is no abiding happiness to be found. In our time, as in others like it, lifting others’ sights up from paltry and hollow goods toward the elevating, nourishing satisfaction of truth, beauty, and goodness—and ultimately the God in whom they cohere—is a mission worthy of our best efforts.
CLT: And what is your inspiration behind that goal?
DH: I say this not because I believe in “saving civilization” as such, although that wouldn’t be a bad thing, but much more because I am a Christian who is called to love others for Christ’s sake. Pointing others away from the false, ugly, and empty and toward real wisdom, loveliness, and virtue is an act of grace.
CLT: That’s a beautiful take, and one I’m sure you further in your work at Baylor. Can you describe what your experience there has been like?
DH: It is my joy to lead a fifty-member full-time faculty and staff as we educate around 1,500 gifted undergraduates pursuing over eighty different majors, in the context of a nationally regarded Christian research university. What an extraordinary blessing is ours! We get to unite the best kind of liberal arts education with the opportunities and resources of a Carnegie R1 institution in a Power Five athletic conference, and to do all the while guided by our mission of educating men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community.
CLT: Is there anything in particular you find especially rewarding in your work?
DH: Of all the special encouragement and rewarding experiences I enjoy, the best of all is watching freshmen begin their study in Baylor’s Honors College with high hopes and open questions about their future, and to grow in self-confidence grounded in timeless wisdom during their four years with us, such that we send them into the world as graduates prepared to lead and serve the world with grace, humility, generosity, vision—and by God’s grace, the faith, hope, and charity freely given in Christ.
CLT: That sounds extremely fulfilling! Finally, do you have a favorite author from our author bank?
DH: I have always believed that the world has produced no greater author, all things considered, than Dante Alighieri. His Divine Comedy unites the finest tradition of imaginative epic poetry together with a plumb-the-depths and ascend-the-heights expansiveness of insight unmatched by any other. Whether for his artistry, philosophical and theological wisdom, political astuteness, pastoral encouragement, or prophetic judgment, Dante is simply superb.
CLT: Thank you so much for speaking with us today! You’ve contributed so much to our mission, especially our Author Bank, and it was a pleasure to hear you speak more on it!
To learn more about the Classic Learning Test and sign up for an upcoming exam, go here. Or, for a taste of the great writers who compose our Author Bank, take a look at our author profile series, published weekly.
Published on 31st May, 2022. Page image presents detail from Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne (completed in 1625), photographed by Joaquim Alves Gaspar (source).