Arthur Holmes was a Wheaton College philosopher, professor and mentor

  • Arthur Holmes

    Arthur Holmes

By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent
Posted10/16/2011 7:30 AM

The former chairman of the philosophy department at Wheaton College and a noted philosopher credited with influencing the wider Christian community has died.

Arthur Holmes was 87.


"It would be hard to think of anyone who has had a greater impact on Christian higher education than Arthur Holmes," said Wheaton College President Philip Ryken.

He pointed to one of Holmes' books, "The Idea of a Christian College," first published in 1975 as one of the foundations for Christian educators.

"Wheaton College will long remember Art Holmes as the complete Christian philosopher," Ryken added. "He was a careful scholar, a rigorous thinker, a wise mentor, a warm friend and a champion for the integration of faith and learning."

Holmes was born in England but left his native country to study at Wheaton College, where he completed bachelor's and master's degrees in Bible and theology. He earned a doctorate in philosophy from Northwestern University in 1957, and returned to teach theology and philosophy at his alma mater.

He spent his entire career at Wheaton College, teaching philosophy for 43 years, including more than 20 as chairman of the philosophy department.

One of his former students, Marilee Melvin, who went on to study philosophy further at the University of Chicago, credited Holmes with instilling in her a lifelong love of learning and engagement in the "greater conversation."

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She added that his unique delivery in the classroom, with his dramatic British accent and use of facial expressions, served to make the class a memorable one.

"I think we just loved to hear him speak on those long winter afternoons in his History of Philosophy class," says Melvin, who serves as executive assistant to the president at Wheaton College."All of his students were convinced of his passion to help us learn to reflect."

Holmes won many awards during his tenure. Among them, he was named Alumnus of the Year for Distinguished Service to Alma Mater in 1978, and he was named the 1987 Illinois Professor of the Year by the council for Advancement and Support of Education.

His colleagues still point to a powerful chapel address he gave at Wheaton in the 1960s. In it he spoke about his vision for rigorously educating students, no matter what their major, and immersing them in a Christian perspective that ultimately would affect world ideas.


"Arthur influenced an entire generation of evangelicals to think deeply and seriously about the life of the mind," said W. Jay Wood, the philosophy department chair. "His influence endures in the lives of his many students who carry his teaching into their various careers and callings."

Holmes is survived by his wife of 62 years, Alice, and their sons, Paul (Laura), of Stillwater, Minn., and Mark (Jennifer), of Galesburg; as well as six grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday in Pierce Chapel at Wheaton College, 501 College Ave, in Wheaton.

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