- Presidential Address
Good evening, colleagues, and especially to you, Brian. It is indeed a special honor and pleasure to introduce you to the members of this illustrious guild.
I was fortunate to read a blog by your brother, Jeffrey Blount, himself an award-winning author and television director. His blog, titled "The First of His Kind," was about you: how your father, a farmer, and mother, a kindergarten teacher, worked hard to give you and your brothers the higher education that had eluded them in the segregated South and the segregated public schools of Philadelphia.
How your brother at eighteen was sitting with your mother, father, and oldest brother on the campus of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. How it was the spring of 1978. How he and your family were the only black people among whites in an elegant and historic room at the College. How your brother felt ashamed and intimidated when a white woman kept stealing disbelieving and angry glances at him and your family. How she was perhaps thinking that your brother was one of the help or that your mother was a "mammy" for one of the white honorees of the Phi Beta Kappa Society who were being awarded that day. How, dating back to 1776, Phi Beta Kappa was the oldest and most prestigious academic honor society in the United States.
How you, Brian, were the first to lead these honoree graduates forth, the only black William and Mary graduate awarded in that room that day. How one of the Phi Beta Kappa officers told the assembly, "We want you to know that Brian is the first of his kind in the history of the college to receive this honor." The first of his kind… The first of his kind… How even though this officer awkwardly did not seem to know how to refer to you and your family, you all were regarded as intellectual equals. How for your brother Jeffrey this occasion was a transformative experience at the age of eighteen, stirring within him the confidence to continue his own dreams of success in college and beyond.
How you yourself, Brian, graduating with a double major in religion and psychology and as a Phi Beta Kappa honoree, continued on and did not look back. And what a journey [End Page 3] it was! You were ordained in 1980 in the Baptist Church but were called to the Presbyterian Church in 1982, where you have been ever since. Also in 1982, you received your Master of Divinity degree in New Testament Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary. You received your PhD in New Testament from Emory University in 1992, and from there you entered into various stages of professorship at Princeton Theological Seminary, ultimately becoming the Richard J. Dearborn Professor of New Testament Interpretation at PTS in 2004. In 2007 you embarked on a new phase of your professional journey by becoming the President and Professor of New Testament in the Walter W. Moore and Charles E. S. Kraemer Presidential Chairs of Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Recognition of your gifts has graced your professional career. You received a fellowship from the Lilly Foundation in 2003, a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2004 from the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University, an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Presbyterian College in 2010, another honorary doctorate from Hampden-Sydney College in 2011, and just this year another Distinguished Alumnus Award from Princeton Theological Seminary.
Brian, you have become a world-renowned biblical scholar with twelve books to your credit along with many essay contributions. What impressed me most while reading your academic works was that you infused your scholarship with your deep pastoral commitments to and advocacy for the African American church. Indeed, your commentary on the book of Revelation was named by the Academy of Parish Clergy as the best reference book of 2009.1 Your Invasion of the Dead: Reading Resurrection through the Lens of Apocalyptic Eschatology was included in the Academy of Parish Clergy's Top Ten Books for 2014.2
Canvassing your former students, I received enthusiastic reports from those...