News - Dr. Richard Huston - Outstanding Professor, Volunteer and Missionary of Latin American Culture

Dr. Richard Huston - Outstanding Professor, Volunteer and Missionary of Latin American Culture

Dr. Richard Huston - 2015 Outstanding Faculty Award Recipient

Article written by Dave Bell of The Greenville Advocate

When Richard Huston heard his name called during Greenville College’s recent graduation ceremony, it wasn’t to receive another degree.

Instead, it was to receive an affirmation that he says surpasses the bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees he holds.

Huston was named the 2015 recipient of the Greenville College Outstanding Faculty Award.

“It’s a huge honor,” said Huston, a professor of history for 21 years and chair of the History and Political Science Department for the past 19 years. “It’s a big affirmation, because students are involved. They make recommendations, then the faculty does some deliberations and the nominations must be approved by the board of trustees. It means a lot to me that my nomination was approved at all three of those levels.”

The son of a missionary pastor father and a missionary teacher mother, Huston spent nearly all of his pre-college years in South America.

When he came to the United States for college, he majored in history education (attending Seattle Pacific University for two years and graduating from Greenville College), because that was the route that would “get me back to South America the quickest.” He returned to South America, to teach in the school he’d attended as a youth.

Then things got complicated. While in the U.S., he had fallen in love with a girl named Ruth. They moved to South America. But instead of embracing the world Richard had known most of his life, she concluded after a year it didn’t suit her.

“It was a real personal crisis for me,” Huston said. “I viewed it as having to make a decision between my vision of living in South America the rest of my life or marrying this woman I loved.

“The compromise we came to was that we would get married and I would go to grad school and major in Latin American history so that I could teach in America and take trips to Latin America each year.”

That compromise has significantly impacted the direction of his life – and the way his teaching career has evolved.

“My life’s trajectory was recast from being a missionary in Latin America to being a missionary of Latin American culture in the United States,” he said.

While pursuing his doctorate at University of California at Los Angeles, Huston saw the benefits of a small college – like Greenville College – where he could have more direct contact with students.

“It took landing at a large state university for me to gain an appreciation for what I had experienced at a small Christian college,” he said.

“I believe that the most effective kind of education happens in the context of a personal relationship between the teacher and the student. It allows me to touch base with them about how things are going on multiple levels – relationally, spiritually, financially – that may or may not be related to the topic of the class.”    

He also saw Greenville College as a place where he could better integrate his faith and his teaching.

“I came to understand my role as more pastoral,” he said. “Yes, I’m interested in the academic development of students, but I’m just as interested in their social and spiritual development.

“For example, I start every class on Mondays with a ‘moment of reflection’ – a brief devotional thought, which I tell them is ‘advice from someone a little farther down the road.’”

And he’s also been able to make good on his original vision of introducing students to travel – and specifically to experiencing Latin American culture.   

He’s led numerous trips to Central America, as well as Holy Land trips to Israel.

Dr. Richard Huston“I tell my students that their education is never complete until they’ve traveled and seen another part of the world – preferably a Third World country. Something happens to an American kid, who has never been outside the country, when they see how the rest of the world lives.”

To accomplish that, he’s taken groups to Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

Along the way, he also discovered another opportunity right here at home. He learned several years ago that the inmate population at the Greenville Federal Correctional Center included a sizeable Hispanic population. He’s volunteered his services there as a tutor for the GED exam and as a chapel speaker for the Spanish-speaking inmates.

Two years ago, he was rewarded for his contributions by being named “volunteer of the year” at the prison. That, along with his recent “outstanding faculty award,” are among his most prized recognitions.

He and his wife, a part-time professor in the Greenville College religion department, have a son, Peter, who graduated this spring from the college in history.

And lest you think Huston is a stuffy academic, his two passions outside of his main job are Latin jazz and his 1995 K1100 BMW motorcycle.

In fact, each year for the past decade, he and his brothers have taken two-week motorcycle camping trips to destinations around the United States. This summer, they’re headed to the rolling hills of southern Arkansas.

Bottom line, Huston is an extraordinary professor who passes his passion for his subject matter on to his students.

One of his peers, who nominated him for the award, described him as “one of the most positive and affirming people I’ve ever met” and “one of the most engaged professors that we have.”

It appears that his decision years ago to become a “missionary of Latin American culture in the United States” has worked out pretty well.

This article was republished with permission from The Greenville Advocate newspaper. It was originally printed in the June 9, 2015 edition of the paper as "Huston Wins Faculty Award." 

Read more about one of Dr. Huston's passions, the Greenville Prison Initiative:

Greenville College Prison Program Inspires and Transforms

Greenville College Launches College in Prison Program

This story was published on June 10, 2015

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