Dr. John Willis, longtime professor in the Department of Bible, Missions and Ministry, was recently released from the hospital afree almost a monthlong stay but is maintaining high spirits.
Willis has been teaching at ACU for almost 44 years and is one of the oldest professors on campus, so the news of his hospitalization a month ago was of interest to many students and other faculty.
Willis is senior faculty status, which means he teaches two sections of one course. His graduate assistant covered his classes during his illness.
He was in an isolated room at Abilene Regional Hospital fighting a strep infection in his arm, but Dr. Rodney Ashlock, chair of the Department of Bible, Missions and Ministry as well as a friend of Willis’, said his spirits are still high.
“He is in great spirits and can’t wait to get back in the classroom,” Ashlock said.
Ashlock has known Willis for 26 years, since he was the professor’s graduate assistant in 1989. According to Ashlock, Willis is known for his authentic desire to make students feel welcome and at home.
“He takes cookies to all of his classes, and is typically there are least 10 minutes early,” Ashlock said. “He greets students, memorizes their names, writes them birthday cards and brings them cookies every day.”
Haley Jones, a junior family studies major from Waco, had Willis for Message of the Old Testament her sophomore year and said he made an impact on her college career.
“Dr. Willis clearly cared about me as a person and not just as a student in his class,” Jones said. “I’ve had a particularly difficult college career, and he was one of the professors who stuck with me. He helped me learn to be a better Christian as well as a better student.”
Ashlock echoes this sentiment.
“He just cares,” Ashlock said. “He genuinely cares about his students. There is no way you can doubt his sincerity. It’s who he is.”
Ashlock mentioned that Willis’ wife, Evelyn, is with him everyday, and if students write him letters, she could read them to him.
“He would love to get cards,” Ashlock said. “Little well-wishes would be very well-received, and of course, just say prayers.”