600 and 3000

It’s been a pretty tough summer for us Minnesota Twins fans. We got spoiled just enough to start complaining that the team was only winning divisions, not getting deep into the playoffs. Expectations thus raised, we naturally got hit with a season in which there were so many injuries that half the time it felt like the Rochester Red Wings had relocated to Target Field.

Jim Thome hitting a home run
Jim Thome homering in a game last year - Creative Commons (Delaywaves)

But even seasons as dreary as this one have their shining moments, and the shiniest of them came Monday night in Detroit, as Jim Thome hit his 599th and 600th career home runs, becoming only the fifth player untainted by steroids accusations to reach that landmark (Aaron, Ruth, Mays, Junior — sorry: Bonds, A-Rod, Sosa). Here’s an interesting summary of the responses to Thome’s feat, or if you’d just like to savor the moment, the video.

I’m thoroughly impressed, buy into all the “couldn’t have happened to a nicer, more deserving guy” comments, and love baseball enough to have felt rather moved watching the highlight again and again.

But moments like this also make me wish that our society could pay just as much attention to historic accomplishments in fields whose Jim Thome-like figures (i.e., admirable people who do admirable things) aren’t already compensated by GDP-sized salaries and benefits packages. Fields like, say, higher education…

Just for fun, consider this list of sporting accomplishments from the summer:

Each athlete, in compensation for his rather unimpressive result, earned as much money as I take home in a single year as an associate professor at a master’s level university. (based on Woods’ and Raonic’s purses, and calculating Blackburn’s game pay based on his salary spread out over his career high for innings pitched in one season)

If I wanted to do what I do primarily for the money, I would have stuck to my original undergraduate ambition and become an international lawyer rather than letting myself get seduced by the allures of the historical discipline. And my career doesn’t subject me to 24-hour media scrutiny, abusive comments from “fans,” or the constant risk of career-ending or -shortening injury (though I think I might have lost a step in my large group lecturing coming into the fall…). So I’m not all that upset about these kinds of monetary disparities.

But, come on: if we as a nation cannot agree on anything else (and we’re pretty close to proving that), can’t we collectively affirm that there are career milestones that signify far greater contributions to society and that they deserve at least a fraction of the attention given an opposite field home run hit by the designated hitter for a baseball team playing out the string on a disappointing season?

Mike HolmesI’m not exactly sure what that milestone would be for professors. But my colleague Mike Holmes did get some press in the Bethel University world for teaching Intro to the Bible to his 3000th career student.

“3000th career student” has the right kind of ring. It’s a nice round number, well into the quadruple digits. Any larger and it just sounds like you’re running students through an assembly line. And while I’m sure that there are professors at larger universities who reach that figure in two or three sections of their Intro courses, 3000 is pretty astounding given the size of the institution, the maximum size of the class (35 or 40, I believe), the level of personal attention Mike gives to his students, the general excellence of his teaching (we’re thrilled to have him come back to help teach our interdisciplinary Christianity and Western Culture course—which he co-created—this year), and the fact that, when he’s not teaching a full course-load, Mike just happens to be one of the world’s leading scholars on early Christianity, and the editor of a new Greek New Testament. (He’s also, as far as I can tell, the only full-time Bethel prof with his own Wikipedia page.)

Would anyone else like to suggest similar landmarks in higher education or other fields not covered by ESPN?

3 thoughts on “600 and 3000

  1. I heard of a Teaching Assistant who taught over 7000 students during his time at Bethel. He might be worthy of a blog post… 😉

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