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Founding RSG Professor Reflects on 30 Years

By Amanda Morad | October 31, 2013

Dr. Philip C. Bom

As Regent University's Robertson School of Government (RSG) celebrates 30 years, events across campus have helped reflect on a heritage of leadership and inspired progress in the future. But perhaps none have been quite so poignant as the retirement lecture of beloved professor emeritus, Dr. Philip C. Bom, on Friday, Oct. 25.

Speaking on "The History and Promise of RSG," Bom honored the past and inspired the students, staff, faculty and alumni before him into the future.

Among those in attendance were former RSG dean, Dr. John Munday; former interim dean, Dr. Gary Roberts; and professor emeritus, Dr. Joseph Kickasola, in addition to RSG's current dean, Dr. Eric Patterson, and Regent's executive vice president and RSG alumnus, Dr. Paul Bonicelli '87.

"There have been so many times over my 29-year career that Dr. Bom's teaching, his wisdom, have helped me and meant so much to me," Bonicelli said. "Academic excellence and calling—you can't choose one or the other here and that's made all the difference for me."

Alumna Ann Flandermeyer Kirwin '03 also reflected on her time at RSG and the impact that Bom had on her life and career. "I had an amazing experience here," she said. "Having professors who were so knowledgeable and invested in their students made all the difference. That personal investment is what I remember most about Dr. Bom."

Kirwin now owns and operates Principle Advantage, Ltd., a Virginia-based consulting and government affairs firm.

As someone who worked alongside Bom for 28 of his 30 years at RSG, Kickasola gave an introduction only a long-time comrade could give. "I cherish not only my professional time with Dr. Bom, but also my friendship," Kickasola said. He and Bom were the only two professors for the School of Public Policy when the university was still named after the Christian Broadcasting Network.

When Kickasola faced the choice between teaching for the School of Divinity and the School of Government, it was Bom who encouraged him to focus his vast expertise on Middle East and Islamic policy. "I owe this self-discovery and expanded area of service to Philip Bom's vision," he said.

Bom helped impart that vision as he took the podium to share about RSG's heritage. "What's unique about RSG is that its founding coincided with the Catholic/Protestant renewal and the Reagan revolution in the United States, and the influence of those movements helped place RSG on the cutting edge of faith and politics," Bom explained.

Bom described the first decade of RSG's development as "small beginnings, but good years."

"We were progressive and international before it was common for Christian universities," he acknowledged. "The faculty was so diverse. Man, did we ever have arguments and debates, but despite our difference, we were dedicated to each other. We were a band of academic brothers."

Even in those days, Bom said, students came from many theological and cultural backgrounds, representing many continents and several generations.

"We demanded a lot of them, but they also demanded a lot of us," he recalled. "They wanted to learn. We discovered together how foundational the Bible is to civilization."

Most other schools of public policy mainly emphasized process but not principles, Bom explained. "We dealt not only in efficiency and effectiveness, but in matters of authority and responsibility."

He also noted that many schools training future government leaders skipped over crucial aspects of life: "God, love and death." But RSG was built on the cornerstone of those aspects and kept them at the core of the curriculum. "We never lost sight of the soul of the students," he said. "We were raising questions and providing answers."

He quoted Derek Bok, former president of Harvard, recognizing that they excelled in methodology and empiricism, but failed to offer students direction and purpose.

"We were a small university, but we were offering an education Harvard could not provide," Bom said.

He concluded the lecture with some thoughts on preserving RSG's rich heritage while moving into the promise of the future.

"We must never lose sight of the cross of Christ," Bom encouraged. "If we stay true to our vision and mission, we will continue to succeed and prosper. Let God find us faithful."

Learn more about the Robertson School of Government.


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