A Word from Professor Nyvall
A glowing memory from my North Park past is the story of my first encounter with a living legend, Dr. Navid Nyvall, former president of our college.
In his eighties, Prof. Nyvall was called back to teach a course on "The Life of Jesus." It was a most illuminating experience shedding light on the Bible, teaching, and life.
His book Harmony of the Gospels was just about all he needed for the course. Undoubtedly few of us remembered much of what he taught, but his pedagogy was breathtaking! Using the Harmony he set us down squarely in the transitions of Jesus' journeys. I specifically recall the fascination he had for Jesus' movement across the Jordan into the province of Peraea. He had our minds spinning on the word "Beyond." His was not an exploration into what or when, but why. Our minds were provoked by "the big picture." But we had far more questions than answers.
You can well understand why we approached the first semester final with apprehension. Sitting down with the question in front of us only exacerbated our horror. It called for an essay on the one word: "Beyond." For a dismal moment I thought of giving up my plans for the ministry! But on second thought, the question was too intriguing not to try.
For the last semester final we had a more puzzling poser to solve: "Which is more important—time or space?" Impossible as it was to solve it was most exhilarating to fly out of our comfort zone to see where our probing took us! I really haven't come down to earth yet and, as far as I remember, I passed.
Looking back, I realize more and more that Prof. Nyvall was revolutionizing my understanding of a true education. Beyond necessary facts to be learned, what a student can bring to the process is also fundamentally important! I hope I do not violate a right exegesis of Jeremiah too badly in quoting the prophet along this line. "No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me from the least of them to the greatest saith; the Lord" (Jer. 3l:34).
This Covenant legend was also very human. One incident in class struck home. Exam time was approaching and one student raised his hand to propose that the final be done differently. Nyvall's nerve was touched. He stroked his beard and replied: "Mr.______ what is my business is my business." Most of us took it as righteous anger.
My last memory of the beloved professor is of him sitting on the desk, his legs draped over the front. He was having fun. Dr. Nyvall was not one to look back. So with all joy this blessed valedictory burst out of him: "Keep young and live forever!!"