This fall, Visiting Professor of English Patrick Timmis ’13 joined the ranks of Hillsdale alumni on the college faculty.
“It ended up being very providential that they needed somebody to be here this year and teach,” Timmis said. “It’s a little bit surreal to be back here in a really good way.”
While professors of English Stephen Smith and Benedict Whalen are on sabbatical this semester, Hillsdale alumnus Timmis is filling in. After his graduation, Timmis earned a Master of Arts degree from the University of Virginia. In 2016, he graduated from Duke University with a doctorate in medieval and renaissance studies, specializing in 16th and 17th century English reformation literature, though he said he also has an interest in the theology of St. Augustine.
Timmis said he remembers his time at Hillsdale fondly. Many of the professors he studied under are now his colleagues.
“A couple of them have retired, but more than not are still here and still teaching me,” Timmis said. “They’ve just picked up right where they left off.”
He took classes from Smith, as well as professors of English David Whalen, Dwight Lindley, Patricia Bart, and Justin Jackson. He said Jackson taught the hardest course he ever took at Hillsdale, a one-credit honors seminar on St. Maximus the Confessor.
Timmis said coming back to Hillsdale as a teacher rather than a student has been a great experience so far.
“I haven’t been back to campus a ton since graduation,” Timmis said. “I didn’t let myself want to come back to Hillsdale as a professor. I didn’t see it as a possibility because I do medieval and renaissance literature and Hillsdale has Bart, Jackson, Whalen, and Smith. Those are really big shoes to fill.”
Though Timmis said returning to Hillsdale as a professor is strange, Jackson described it as a natural transition.
“It’s a great joy to work with a former student,” Jackson said. “He can come to me to ask for advice, but seeing how he wants to do something actually gives me perspective.”
The perspective that former students bring to the table as professors is advantageous to all the faculty, Jackson said.
“Hillsdale College students just approach things differently than what I was used to,” Jackson said. “There is clearly a really nifty pedagogical advantage if you were a student here coming back and teaching the students.”
Senior Seth Ramm said he has enjoyed Timmis’ teaching approach in his Renaissance British Literature class.
“He draws attention to important areas of the text while also providing great, in depth context,” Ramm said. “His love for literature is one of the best parts of the class. He’s always excited and invested during discussion, which is very engaging.”
Some of Timmis’ favorite classes outside his department were Western Heritage with Professor of History David Stewart, Renaissance Philosophical Thought with Professor of History Matt Gaetano, and Advanced Writing with Dow Journalism Program Director John J. Miller.
Timmis worked on the Collegian during his four years at Hillsdale and served as editor-in-chief his senior year in 2012 – 2013. He said the team that year was excellent, but had some fiery characters, including opinions editor Kate Bachelder Odell ’13 and news editor Caleb Whitmer ’14.
“We had a news editor who was brilliant and talented and opinionated,” Timmis said. “The opinions editor was one of the most talented people on campus who now works on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.”
Timmis said this opinionated trio did not begin the year as friends.
“We would have knockdown dragouts every Wednesday night,” Timmis said. “But by about halfway through the year, the three of us were best friends.”
Looking at his past and future at Hillsdale, Timmis said he is delighted to have the opportunity to return and teach.