John and Pat Walkup have been at Texas Tech University since 1971. John is a Paul W. Horn Professor of electrical engineering and he directs the Optical Systems Laboratory at the university. John is taking early retirement so he and Pat can work full-time with professors at Stanford and Berkeley.
Twenty six years invested in electrical engineering; the highest honor awarded a tenured professor apart from an endowed chair; over 50 published journal articles; over four million dollars in research grants; two years away from drawing retirement; three daughters and a grandson living nearby . . .
Who would trade all that to start over in an unfamiliar career; earn a living through the charitable gifts of others; adjust to a lower standard of living; and move away from immediate family and friends?
It's a choice John and Pat Walkup have made, and with enthusiasm.
In one year the Walkups will leave a successful career at Texas Tech University and will begin another career with Christian Leadership Ministries. They plan to move to California where they will work with faculty at Stanford University and UC, Berkeley.
The Walkups' decision to become "full-time Christian workers" was born out of their personal experience of reaching their campus with the love of Jesus Christ and their desire to help other Christian faculty to be effective in doing the same.
"About two years ago, in a two-month period, three of my former undergraduates were on campus. Independently and totally unsolicited they came to me and mentioned that they still remember the day I identified myself as a believer in the classroom and how meaningful that had been to them," John remembers.
"One fellow had been a young Christian at the time. He said he was really encouraged by my statement in class that my relationship with Christ was the most important thing in my life.
"I almost wept when he told me that."
It is such encounters that excite and motivate John, more even than the prospect of making a new discovery in his Optical Systems Laboratory. And it is that excitement which moves him to commit his life to helping Christian faculty integrate their faith and their professions.
John traces his interest in the union of Christian faith and academics back to his undergraduate experience at Dartmouth College.
"As an undergraduate, there were a number of times when I would have loved some counsel from a Christian professor," he said. "In those days, at least, none had ever identified themselves in that way, so I just didn't know where to turn."
Once he reached graduate school at Stanford, he met his future wife, Pat, a graduate student in mathematics. She introduced John to a church where he began to grow in his faith.
In graduate school, John did finally meet a handful of professors who would publicly identify themselves as Christians; their lives were inspiring, but John still felt that the Christian influence of so few was inadequate for significant spiritual change.
When John and Pat reached Texas Tech, they sought to apply the discipleship principles they had acquired through their church at Stanford. John thought it would be a good idea to use the informal first day of classes to present his Christian testimony.
"When I came to Tech, I really wanted to ident-ify myself as a believer, so I started introducing myself on the first day of each class and telling a little bit about my background," John explained. "I would always mention that I had become a Christian in high school and that, as important as electrical engineering was to me, my faith in Christ and my relationship with Christ was greater.
"I mentioned that I would be glad to talk to them outside of class if that was of interest to them. And that was what I said in about as many words.
"This was really on my own initiative," he added. "At that point I had not seen it done."
John says his motivation for identifying himself as a Christian goes deeper than just obeying a commandment; it goes to the heart of who gets the glory.
"It's really important to do our work unto the Lord and I've always tried to do that," John related, "but I also think there's a real price to pay for not identifying ourselves as believers. The price is that God gets robbed of the glory due to Him.
"If He's the one who is providing the strength and wisdom to live our lives, then we want to make that clear. Otherwise we're just going to be known as good people, and that's a fear I haveI don't want to be known as just a good person."
As John and Pat settled into their lives at Tech, they proceeded to begin an Intervarsity student outreach chapter at Tech, and they remained the faculty co-sponsors of the group for the next 20 years.
In the mid-eighties, the Walkups began to go through a shift in their perspectives as the Christian faculty on the Tech campus began to meet and talk about influencing their campus for Christ, and John and Pat began to put more of their time into that effort.
At that time, Mike Duggins, a Christian Leadership staff member, came to Tech and began encouraging the Christian faculty to form a group to coordinate efforts to reach their campus for Christ. The faculty did begin to meet, and John, who embraced the concept of a faculty fellowship, eventually led the Christian Faculty and Staff Association at Texas Tech for some years.
Over the next few years, John and Pat attended several Christian Leadership conferences, and in 1990 John traveled with a team of professors to the former Soviet Union. There, the professors spoke openly in classrooms about their faith in Christ and shared their testimonies with other professors. John made the trip again in 1994.
In between the trips to Russia, John and Pat took a one-year sabbatical at Stanford and the NASA Ames Research Center.
"I started to talk to some of the Christian faculty at Stanford and realized how much time pressure they were under," John said. "I also heard how much they were indirectly commenting about the need or benefit they would have from more contact with other Christian faculty.
"During that year we began to think that it would be great to do ministry with faculty on a full-time basis."
John feels he has some insight into the public faith of a Christian professor that would help him minister to faculty. "We have to realize that, as believers, God has put us in these jobs for a purpose," John stated. "We are there to be His ambassadors.
"This is the question: "Am I a college professor who happens to be a Christian, or am I a Christian who happens to be a college professor?'"
The Walkup's interest in joining Christian Leadership as professional staff grew steadily over the years. However, at that time John and Pat were familiar only with younger couples starting out in full-time ministry.
"We've supported a number of people . . . over the years, and I started thinking, why does somebody always have to be in their 20's or early 30's to go [into full-time ministry]? Why can't some of us who are older consider taking early retirement and doing this?" John asked.
"Then I remember that when I went to one of the [Campus Crusade] conferences and they introduced all the new staff, there were a number of older couplescouples that looked like they were retired or nearing retirementwho were coming on staff. I thought then that we could consider [full-time ministry] at some point."
As the Walkups spent more time with full-time Christian Leadership staff, they met other faculty who had made the decision to leave their professions and join the CLM team. John and Pat both saw that this was a move God was calling them to make themselves.
"With many things I've done in my life I've felt like, 'I can't do this,'" Pat mused. "That's just the way it's been for me because I really don't think I've been very well prepared for situations [I encounter]. I think, 'Oh, there are a million other people who could do this better.' But He's given me the opportunity, so I will take it.
"I am trusting God that my gifts and abilities are a good match for this work." Pat added. "He put me here, so they must be!"
John is excited about the opportunity to spend more time doing what he has enjoyed doing most in his lifehelping people know God and grow in Him. He feels his career as a professor uniquely qualifies him for ministry with faculty.
"Frankly, when you're talking to a faculty member and he knows that you've walked in his shoes, so to speak, and you've done the things he's doing, there's an empathy there. They think that you can sympathize with some of their struggles because you've experienced them yourself. And that is probably the biggest advantage that former faculty will have."
John feels there's some significance to the concept of building Christian leaders among faculty who will then be those best equipped to reach other faculty for Christ.
"Somebody said the plans for Walter and Ann Bradley to be coming on staff and for Walter becoming the new director is like turning things over to the 'natives.'
"CLM seems to be going through a transition now where they will gradually be bringing on more facultyI see that as a strength. I have tremendous admiration for those who started CLM, but there's a lot to be said for having as many staff as possible who have been former faculty. It's not easy to work with faculty as they can be somewhat intimidating. Somebody who has been a faculty member, however, will have to struggle a little less with that potential intimidation factor."
John and Pat plan to move to Stanford in approximately one year to help Christian faculty on that campus and other area campuses. John believes he can best help Christian faculty work through how to "integrate their faith and their lives on campushow do you put those two together?
"In most cases I think Christian faculty struggle in that area, and they really don't know how to live an integrated life," John said. "They may be active in their churches, but basically no one on campus knows they are Christians, and they struggle with that. I understand a lot of those struggles.
"I remember how, at first, it was a struggle to put a Christian poster on my wall or some other Christian symbol in my office. Every time I wanted to share a little of my faith on the first day of class, I sensed a spiritual struggle going on. I think I can relate to that feeling in a lot of faculty and can help them find meaningful ways to integrate their faith."
Pat will be busy pouring her life into others as well in her new capacity as a CLM professional staff member.
"I'm expecting to get more involved with the faculty women," she said. "I'm planning to work with women the women faculty, faculty wives, graduate student women, and probably graduate students' wives.
"There's a lot I need to learn. God is going to teach me a lot between now and then."
Pat thinks this change is a good move for them now, and she's eager to discover what the Lord has in store for her and John.
"John's feeling is that he may not have as much energy in ten years. I'm very thankfulI feel great now, and I think, 'Oh, we'll have plenty of energy then.' But it's true, it does go," she laughed.
John is hoping to have more time to work on projects and interests he has only been able to occasionally dip into in the past.
"One of my interests is the faith of famous scientists," he stated. "I would like to write a book on that. I've gotten to know a few famous scientists who are Christians . . . I've done a little research in that area, but I need to do a lot more."
John also wants to investigate "just how to deal with this postmodern world in which we find ourselveshow to explain the eternal truths of God's word to people who think there are no absolute truths.
"Those of us who have lived longer know that is a relatively recent philosophical trend. It certainly wasn't the world I grew up in, and in some ways we're struggling with how to make the gospel relevant and the truth of the gospel apparent to people who have bought into a postmodern framework, philosophically."
The Walkup's decision to leave John's profession in academia come at the height of his career. Opportunities in research, teaching, and employment are abundant right now for John.
"I have interviewed for a couple of department chairmanships, [and] I have had other opportunities to leave Texas Tech University to go to other institutions. But I felt God would make it clear to me if there was something else He wanted me to do," John said.
"When I really looked at my life and where my heart was, I sensed that reaching out to faculty would just build on my experience and my career here at Tech."