Ways of Knowing
Longtime dean will step into new appointment with math and philosophy
- by Brian J. Bowe
After serving as Science and Mathematics dean for 28 years, P. Douglas Kindschi is clearly committed to science. But he is also committed to philosophy. And as he moves from a career in administration to a role as faculty member, he will devote more time to both.
Kindschi ends his role as dean this month and will spend a year on sabbatical. When he returns to Grand Valley as a faculty member, he will have a joint appointment in the mathematics and philosophy departments. He will continue to study the different ways of knowing that those disciplines represent.
"Look at almost every place in the world where there are major issues developing, there's a religious component at the center," Kindschi said. "Religion and science, I would argue, are the strongest forces in not only American culture, but in culture worldwide. I think to the extent that we keep them apart, to the extent that there's no dialogue to take place here, we are feeding that separation and making it harder for us to come together and find commonality."
Kindschi came to Grand Valley in 1976 as dean of College IV, which later became Kirkhof College. In 1983, he was named dean of the new Science and Mathematics division. He has left an indelible mark on the university. He was instrumental in the development of the Padnos School of Engineering, Annis Water Resources Institute, Regional Math and Science Center, School of Health Professions, and physician assistant studies and occupational therapy programs. His efforts mark a lot of years, a lot of effort and a great deal of satisfaction.
As dean of Science and Mathematics for 28 years, P. Douglas Kindschi ends that role this month to prepare for a new venture as faculty member in the philosophy and math departments. (Below, right) Kindschi pushes a metal sphere outside of Padnos Hall that was created by artist Dale Eldred and (below, left) points to a small-scale model in his office.
"Sure, there have been frustrating times when one wonders if all the work is worth it. But I can honestly say there has not been a single year that I haven't looked back with appreciation for the opportunity to have held this office and this responsibility," Kindschi said.
Kindschi began working in academic administration early in his career. In fact, his first full-time faculty position lasted only one term. So he has long planned to end his academic career with a faculty role.
"Some people have described my decision as retirement; it is not. I plan to work just as hard, if not harder, as a faculty member as I did as dean. Nor am I stepping down. I do not consider taking up this new role as a step down. Instead I am stepping out of one role and into a new one. I am returning to the role I first envisioned when I left graduate school. I am looking forward to the student lives upon which I hope to have a positive and significant impact," he said.
His desire to have a positive impact is apparent outside the academic arena as well. Kindschi has been generous with his talents throughout West Michigan. He has been active for many years in the community and serves on the boards of the Grand Rapids Medical Education and Research Center, Porter Hills Retirement Communities, Van Andel Education Institute Council and Grand Rapids African American Health Institute. His national board appointments include the Medical Benevolence Foundation and chair of the Raytheon Antarctica Science Support Advisory Board.
Kindschi is interested in the areas where science and philosophy overlap. He noted that science has helped increase the standard of living and life expectancy. But it is also science that has led to production of terrible weaponry and the technology capable of destroying humanity. Likewise, religion has provided hope and comfort to many, but it's at the center of conflict on subjects from international terrorism to the debates about abortion or same-sex marriages.
Rather than fracturing the worlds of science and faith in two, each can inform the other.
"Science is also based on faith. There is faith in science but we call them assumptions," Kindschi said. "One of them is that the world is comprehensible by the
Science, Mathematics and Religion: Different Ways of Knowing. The course studies the conflicts and convergence between science and religion and examines historic and contemporary issues that have defined those two powerful forces.
Philosophy Chair Kelly Parker said the department is thrilled to have a scholar like Kindschi among its ranks.
"I was surprised when he said he was interested in a joint appointment. But it made so much sense as soon as I thought about it," Parker said. "He's been working with members of our faculty since he developed the course with Teresa. He's been active with a science and religion reading group, and he's had a lot of contact with our department."
Ultimately, Kindschi said, there's still enough mystery in the universe to leave room for science and faith.
"We're just beginning. We've made enormous progress in science, and we know so much more and have tested so many more things," Kindschi said. "But when you look at the mystery that's still beyond us, we've only scratched the surface of what there is to know."
"Religion and science, I would argue, are the strongest forces in not only American culture, but in culture worldwide."
- Douglas Kindshi, outgoing dean of Science and Mathematics
Page last modified July 22, 2011