Professor tells odd story of finding way to theology field

Ben Miller
Layout Editor

A professor of theology spoke at Pint with Professors Thursday, March 3, in the J.C. Williams Center about how God changed his life through the television series MotorWeek.

Stephen Hildebrand, who holds a doctorate in historical theology and is the chair of the department of theology, took the stage at 8:15 p.m. after an opening prayer and introduction by Dan Dentino, vice president of student life, to tell a story that “is not only funny, but turned out to be very important in the discernment of (his) vocation.”

Hildebrand said he attended a small Catholic high school, and his plan was to be valedictorian and attend a state school.

“In Houston, there’s a law that any valedictorian of any high school in Texas gets to go to a state school on scholarship,” Hildebrand said. “So that was my plan. I was going to go to Texas A&M … and study business.”

Hildebrand said he only had to keep his head down and attend to his grades for the remainder of his senior year in order to keep on his plan, but a mishap in English class threw his plans aside.

“We put the tape in the player,” he said, “we press play, and up on the video tape comes MotorWeek.”

Hildebrand explained that his friend accidentally recorded over his final project when trying to record MotorWeek for his dad.

After that, his only choice was to attend the University of St. Thomas, which he only applied for to please his mom.

“I was still planning on going to Texas A&M,” Hildebrand said, “but … I got a call from University of St. Thomas, which offered me a scholarship to come study there. … It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

It was in his second semester that he took a required philosophy course that changed his path and set him on the road to Franciscan.

“That was the beginning of the end of my aspiration to study business,” Hildebrand said. “I became a philosophy major, then a theology major, and it turned my life around.”

When Hildebrand ended his story, he opened the floor to questions from the audience.

Hildebrand was asked to list his favorite class to teach, his most important class and a class he would like to teach.

“My favorite class is probably Theology of the Church,” he said, “which is weird because I had never even studied it. … I would say the most important is probably Foundations (of Catholicism). Or maybe Christian Moral Principles.”

Hildebrand said that a class he wishes he could teach again was one dedicated to St. Basil.

After Hildebrand stepped down, the event continued for another hour with students socializing and Hildebrand going table to table to talk with students in smaller groups.

Maria Brandell, who graduated in 2019, said she was comforted by his story about teaching ecclesiology for the first time.

Brandell said she was teaching high school after graduating and found herself teaching a course she had never taken before.

“The same exact thing happened to me,” she said. “(I was) thrown into the same situation; I felt like a fake, but now after hearing his story, I guess I’m not.”

The event began at 8 p.m. with free sandwiches from Def Louie’s, free beer catered by Parkhurst and commemorative pint glasses decorated with the event’s logo for the first 50 students.

The event was hosted by Exc!te.

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