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Faber Reflects on 40 years of Teaching at Tabor College

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By Tabor College 

 

HILLSBORO, Kan. — David Faber, Ph.D., saw Tabor College as the perfect home as he began teaching philosophy in higher education.

“How do we help students to think with a Christian mind? What does it mean to approach any discipline from a Christian perspective?”

With those questions in mind and Tabor’s commitment to Anabaptist theology and Evangelical traditions, Faber has relied on that foundation to guide his instruction for over 40 years.

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On his first day of teaching, Faber arrived early in the Lohrenz 34 and 36 classrooms.

“There were no students there yet,” he said. “I sat down at a desk, and students came in and sat at desks around me. When it was time to start, I got up and said, ‘I’m Professor Faber.’ They just laughed and said, ‘No you’re not.’ I didn’t look much older than them.”

Since his start at Tabor, he has used the same academic suite. At the start of his tenure, Clarence Hiebert, Ph.D., Harold Dyck, Beverly Holmskog, Katie Funk Wiebe, and John McCabe-Juhnke occupied the offices.

“They, and others, set an incredible tone for what it meant to be a Mennonite Brethren college,” Faber said.

That standard of excellence also propelled him as he worked with his students.

“Philosophy allows you to examine your presuppositions in valuable ways and in ways that particular disciplines do not,” he said. “It allows you to step back and think about those presuppositions. I think that is really valuable. That can go into the workplace or in a family or church setting.”

Douglas Miller, Ph.D., emeritus professor of biblical and religious studies, was Faber’s colleague for 28 years. He said he appreciated having someone of Faber’s expertise in the department, noting that not all Christian liberal arts colleges had a faculty member with philosophical training in their Bible departments.

Miller applied and began teaching at Tabor in 1993 and retired in 2021. He remembers speaking to Faber first over the phone, striking a connection that continues to this day.

“Dave thinks analogically and is very insightful,” Miller said. “That was always helpful to us because he pushed us to think carefully and consistently. Numerous times, he proposed analogies that enabled us to think more clearly about a given situation or theological concept. He promoted the importance of the Bible combined with good theological thinking.”

In the early 1990s, the Bible department instituted a retreat before the greater faculty retreat.

One to three days in length, they collaborated on courses or department objectives but also prayed for one another as they shared their personal lives. It built and cemented an appreciation for the areas of expertise of each professor.

“The common commitment to a vital Christian faith and love for our students was wonderfully reinforced in our discussions,” Miller said.

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Faber remembers attending an Orientation event and listening to Frank Brenneman, Ph.D., speak to the parents of new students.

Looking to provide peace of mind, Brenneman offered a thought that still resonates for Faber.

“He thanked the parents of students for the trust they were showing to the college by entrusting their children to us,” Faber said. “That was a very striking thing. We’re playing a role of continuing what parents have endeavored to do. That made it more than a job in many ways for me.”

Among many courses, Faber taught Introduction to Philosophy to all freshmen for 20-plus years. Understanding the nature of his classes, he sought to provide a fundamental understanding of philosophy to Tabor’s first-year students.

“It’s like when you first make a little hole for the bigger drill bit to go into,” Faber said. “What education is doing is making that little hole to begin with. If they choose to build something on top of that, and they need the bigger drill bit, they’ve got the start for something bigger and greater.”

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A Tabor education is also part of his family’s foundation. His wife, Connie (Jost, g’80), and their children are Tabor alumni. 

Amanda Faber (g’12) lives in McPherson, Kan., with her husband Tyler Dort (g’14). In April, she moved from chief deputy attorney for the county to magistrate judge. Rebecca Faber (g’15) teaches at Memphis Rise Academy in Memphis, Tenn. Harrison (g’17) and Molly (g’18) Wiebe Faber live in Orange City, Iowa. He works in academic support at Northwestern College.

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