Memories of Professor David Nyvall
Reading "A Word from Professor Nyvall" by Arthur Anderson (Summer, 2001) brought some additional memories to mind. I had the privilege—and what a privilege it was—to have Professor Nyvall as a teacher for classes in Johannine Literature and Covenant History when I was a student in North Park Theological Seminary in 1931-32 and 1934-37.
Art Anderson’s recalling the exam written on the one word "Beyond" and another on "Which is more important—time or space?" reminded me of an assignment we had: "What do you do when you get to the end of the road?" "Find a park bench," we joked among ourselves. But, we knew the good professor did not have that in mind, and dared we suggest it, woe to us!
I suspect that many of us would remember Art’s picture of Professor Nyvall sitting on his desk, his legs draped over the front with his trousers pulling higher and higher, almost to his knees, as he became more and more absorbed in his teaching. And then, in his high-pitched voice asking—to see if we were listening, "What did I say just now?" "Yah, dat’s right!" How I would like to hear him again.
After all these years, I still remember the chapel service in which Professor Nyvall was asked to pray for C.J. Wilson, his fellow teacher for so many years, who was gravely ill. It was a moving experience. Closing this beautiful prayer, he prayed, "And give him a beautiful entrance into your kingdom."
When I was at North Park, I heard the story that an earlier seminary class felt sorry for Professor Nyvall because the New Testament from which he taught the class was almost falling apart. The class members decided to buy him a new one—a very good English translation. When they presented it to him, they learned that he really needed a new Greek, not English, version because he taught from the Greek, translating it into English as he read.
In her later years, Professor Nyvall’s wife was in her "second childhood" as we called it in those days. Every night, this brilliant man read a children’s story to her before she went to sleep.
I was on the committee for planning the Annual Seminary Banquet Program. One Saturday morning I went to Professor Nyvall’s apartment to speak to him about his part in the program. I rang the bell at about 10 a.m. He came to the door wearing an apron over his clothes and carrying a dust cloth. He was doing the Saturday housework on behalf of his ailing wife. We had a good visit; I cherish the memory. What a man!