Money will support computer science and related programs.
In 1935, with only eighth-grade educations, Bill and Evelyn Stillman graduated with diplomas from the evening school of the Philadelphia School of the Bible. Their accomplishment seems far removed from today’s fast-changing world of technology, post-modernism, and the rapidly shifting landscape of Christian higher education. But over 80 years later, the Stillmans’ legacy continues to bear fruit in a surprising way: their family’s generous gift funding new science and technology programs at their alma mater, now called Cairn University.
Bill and Evelyn’s only son, Bill Stillman Jr., attended Cairn’s evening school for just a year during his senior year at Drexel. But a year of formal theological instruction, coupled with his parents’ spiritual legacy, was enough to foster a lifelong passion for a biblical approach to science. Having earned his PhD in engineering from Ohio State University and taught at universities across the world, Dr. Stillman has long used his platform in higher education as an entrance to share his faith in contexts as far-flung as China. (He has continued teaching as recently as spring 2016 at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ.)
Now 86 years old, Bill Stillman Jr. is excited to see his passion realized in Cairn’s unique context: new science and technology majors built on the University’s signature 30-credit core curriculum of Bible and theology. Launching these majors is possible thanks to the Forward campaign, which designates $1.5 million of its $15 million goal to new program development. In honor of Bill Jr and his lifelong commitment to both engineering and the Bible, the Stillman family has pledged $300 thousand dollars towards new computer science and mathematics programs at Cairn, pushing total monies raised past the 25% mark of the priority’s $1.5 million goal.
Ed Stillman, Bill Jr’s son and secretary of Cairn’s Board of Trustees, says the gift will fill an empty niche in the region’s Christian higher education offerings. “Looking at the decline in the number of Christian colleges and universities that have maintained a commitment to biblical studies, I think Cairn University is increasingly unusual and steadfast [among our competitors] in requiring 30 credits of Bible for a degree,” Ed Stillman says. Impressed by current Cairn professors’ biblical integration in professional majors, such as business administration, Ed says the University is well-positioned to seize “a tremendous opportunity, given the gifted faculty that Cairn already has, with the same commitment to teaching these courses [in science and technology] from a biblical worldview.” From a donor’s perspective, he feels confident that “the capital campaign gifts are especially well-spent, because you know that it’s going to be invested in an education that provides a tremendous spiritual focus… To be able to do so with technology and the sciences would be tremendous.”
Ed Stillman believes that Cairn’s new campaign-funded programs can play an important role in the larger conversations about science and faith. Biblically minded, well-educated professionals in science and tech will be prepared to tackle “the misinformation that so many Christians have heard that science and the Bible are at odds with each other, which is totally untrue.” Looking back on the spiritual foundation received as a result of his grandparents’ and father’s Cairn educations, he looks forward to Cairn’s future as it equips the next generation of University graduates to leave their own spiritual and professional legacies.