Title: Philosopher; Educator; University Administrator
Location: Seguin, Texas, United States
Jon Moline, Philosopher, Educator, and University Administrator, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Educators for dedication, achievements, and leadership.
Jon Moline is a philosopher. What does that mean?
The word comes from a Greek word meaning “lover of wisdom.” What is wisdom?
One of the best ways to understand what any word means is by contrast with its opposite. The opposite of wisdom is foolishness.
We see, hear and read a lot of things that few of us would hesitate to think are “foolish.” Words, actions, policies, and people can often seem foolish, although out of tact we may hesitate to say so.
The kind of wisdom that is relevant here is not theoretical. It is practical. That is wisdom in action. And we learn it by example – from people, we have learned to respect as exemplary in avoiding errors. The great historical champion of practical wisdom is Aristotle. He is Jon Moline’s favorite philosopher despite Aristotle’s formidable disadvantages in instrumentation.
Moline characterizes Aristotle as “an outlier” in that he was perhaps the most intelligent person who ever lived, and among the wisest in practice as well. His pioneering curiosity and intelligence ranged over vast areas including logic, the foundations of the sciences, the arts, government, and ethics.
The practically wise person was the one Aristotle looked to as his guide to almost everything. In practice things are as the practically wise person discerns them to be. Aristotle looks to such a person as a working criterion of the truth, of prudence, and of guidance in action. Aristotle looks to the same sort of person for correcting previous errors and thereby advancing the level of all sorts of practical activities. Aristotle notices the practically wise person’s rare knack for avoiding foolishness. The practically wise person tends to be definitive in that way.
Even today leaders in such areas as medicine tend to be those who manage to “get difficult things right” in practice, avoiding the errors of others. Dr. Moline notes that hospital and physician safety ratings vary widely within and also between geographical areas, even sociodemographically similar ones. What accounts for these variations?
One of Jon Moline’s greatest honors was his January 1996 appointment by President of the United States George H. W. Bush, with the advice and consent of the United States Senate, as a member of the National Council on the Humanities. This council is a 26-member advisory board to the Chairman of the NEH. The mission of the NEH is to support education, preservation and public programs in the humanities. Jon Moline served an unusually long time on the National Council under U.S. Presidents from both major political parties, working to promote respectful dialogue and bipartisan consensus in practice.
Another major honor Dr. Moline received was an appointment to the board of the Fund for Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, a small but much-respected unit of the Higher Education programs located within the U.S. Department of Education. The mission of this fund is to support innovative education projects that can then serve as national models for the improvement of postsecondary education.
Jon Moline’s preparation for his career included his earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from Austin College with a Major in Philosophy and an earned Duke University Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Philosophy itself with a Minor in Classical Greek. He was honored by Austin College with a Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 1995.
Dr. Moline’s professional career began in 1964 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he rose through the ranks from Assistant Professor to full Professor, (1964-1986), being asked to take on additional responsibilities as Chairman of the Department of Philosophy and the pioneering Environmental Studies Instructional Program. Dr. Moline was honored also as an Associate member of the Classics Department and was also elected by the 2300-member University Faculty to serve on the University Committee, the University Chancellor’s small cabinet of faculty advisors.
From 1976 to 1986 Dr. Moline served nationally as a member of the National Humanities Faculty whose mission was to work with carefully-selected secondary school teachers to study classical philosophy in order to improve the teaching of the humanities in high-quality secondary schools.
In 1986 Dr. Moline was called to St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where he served for seven years as Vice President and Dean of the College. Dr. Moline helped to implement and expand St. Olaf’s nationally-recognized Foreign Languages Across the Curriculum Program, which expanded the teaching of foreign languages to classes beyond those in the foreign languages.
In 1994 Dr. Moline was called to Texas Lutheran University to serve as President and CEO. This began a period of accelerated growth in enrollment, endowment, and graduate programs that have continued to this day. Dr. Moline retired as TLU President in 2007 and was honored with the title President Emeritus. After retirement, he accepted a few invitations to consult with other colleges and universities about challenges they faced.
Dr. Moline devoted his entire career to the pursuit and practice of practical wisdom. This did not rule out serving as President of the Seguin Economic Development Corporation, as a Director of Junior Achievement of South Texas, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Mid-Texas Symphony. Dr. Moline is a long-time student of the violin and has sung with his wife, Sandra, in a number of choirs. Dr. Moline also holds a Private Pilot’s License, Single-Engine Land, with an Instrument rating, although he is no longer an active pilot. He notes that flying is a great exercise in high-stakes, rapid practical decision-making, providing abundant opportunities for the exercise of practical foolishness or practical wisdom.
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