Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Biology professor builds champions

Teaching — Professor Spohn’s colorful past makes him a student favorite. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

“Good morning, young champions,” professor Terry Spohn welcomes his students every morning.

“Good morning, Champion Builder,” the students reply.

Liberty University students Dana Emerick and Heather Campbell were resigned to a day of long-winded introductions and tedious syllabi when they took their seats in their respective biology and creation studies classes, but assistant professor of biology Terry Spohn was anything but boring.

“I thought he was hilarious, and I got really excited for his class,” Campbell said.

Each semester, Spohn opens his classes with a testimony that has the tendency to blow students away.

“The first day, he just began to talk about himself,” Emerick said. “He focused on who he is as a child of God, and who we are. It was refreshing.”

“He’s so nonchalant about (his experiences),” Campbell said. “I probably won’t accomplish half of those things in my lifetime. It’s crazy.”

Before beginning his speaking career, Spohn was a veteran in the Vietnam War, he tells his students.

“He was a sniper in the military,” Campbell said. “He said, ‘I’ve killed a lot of people, but don’t worry. I don’t do that anymore,’ which is…comforting.”

“He’s a sniper with over 74 kills, so don’t be late to his class,” Emerick warned.

Despite his impressive kill record, Spohn is most enthusiastic about his assignment as a network controller for the Defense Communications Agency, under the code name Tango Sierra. With 123 communication stations from Iceland to Ethiopia to manage during the Vietnam War, Spohn certainly had his work cut out for him.

“I had this top secret clearance called Flash Override,” Spohn said, “which meant that I could preempt the President.”

According to Spohn, the Flash Override clearance gave him the ability to bump anyone off the phone, even the President of the United States.

“I never did, but I could have,” Spohn added with a little grin.

Jokes aside, Spohn really has a knack for inspiring students to learn.

“He’s very energetic and caring about the topic that he’s speaking on, which really draws you in,” Emerick said.

“(Biology 201) is a fun class,” Campbell said. “It’s an 8:50, but I get up and go to it because he’s cool.”

“He’s been here forever,” Emerick said, and it is nearly true.

Spohn first began his career at Liberty University when he accepted a position as assistant professor of biology in 1987, and he has taught at the university ever since.

Science has always had a place in the professor’s heart.

“I liked it ever since I was a kid,” Spohn said, a huge smile spreading across his face.

He was always interested in how things worked and tried to get ahead in math and science courses when his dad’s position in the army had the family constantly moving around.

The secular schools Spohn attended taught only one view of how the human race came into being: evolutionism.

“(Evolution) was just something that was taught in schools,” Spohn said with a shrug. “I was never really challenged on it.”

It was not until Pastor Charlie Clough spoke in church on the book of Genesis, going through it verse by verse, that Spohn really started questioning his beliefs.

“(Evolutionism) doesn’t explain the data,” Spohn said with a shake of his head. “Creationism fits it better.”

The theory of evolution is waning, but it still has a place in the scientific community.

“It’s a heart problem,” Spohn said.

According to Spohn, the theory allows you to live life the way you want to, with no absolutes and every license to sin.

“Many evolutionists are absolutely upset when you confront them,” Spohn said. “If it were just an ‘idea,’ why would they get so upset?”

Spohn was actually invited to Expo ’93, a conference held at the Korean Advanced Institute for Science and Technology, where he spoke about the merits of creationism. He also spoke at the Russian National Academy in 1994 and had the opportunity to help start a Christian university in South Korea in 1995.

“God has an interesting way of bringing things together,” Spohn said.

Despite his many accomplishments, Spohn most enjoys spending time with the younger generations.

“Young people keep me young,” Spohn said with a shrug and a grin.

“He actually loves his subject, which makes (students) passionate to learn,” Emerick said.

Spohn is deeply passionate about his role as a “Champion Builder.” He finds his purpose in “educat(ing) a righteous remnant to carry the torch when we’re not here.”
After all, he said, “the only work that counts is kingdom work.”

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