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A Legacy of Donuts and Ducks, Missiles and Epistles
In the case of Dr. Nathan Holsteen, a legacy smells like donuts. At least that’s what his two children, Ceileigh and Daine, might say of their weekly “Donuts with Daddy” ritual on Saturday mornings. Or they might say a legacy means scaring frogs, feeding ducks, or swimming. They might say a legacy is someone who knows that a sense of belonging and unconditional love can make or break a life. Anyone who knows Jesus knows the truth of that.
“I can’t remember a time when my parents weren’t telling me and showing me about God’s love,” Dr. Holsteen says. “I feel a real responsibility to my children. I want them to know without any hesitation that dad and mom love to be with them, and that daddy and mommy will never stop loving them.” When he’s had to discipline his children, Dr. Holsteen has glimpsed parallels with his relationship to God. “When you know as a father what is best for them, and they refuse to see it, to believe it, to obey … I know that I’m the same way and that’s very convicting.”
“Chaplain Bill was the first worship leader I remember,” he says. “The pastor was David Cotton, who used to be the vice president and dean of students [at DTS]. He was the first pastor I ever knew. And Dr. Lawson was also on staff at the church when I was a kid.”
When it came time to pursue a master’s degree, Dr. Holsteen chose Dallas Seminary “partly because of the academic record of excellence, partly because my dad went here, and partly because professors from DTS would come to my church.”
But before Dr. Holsteen joined the Seminary’s faculty a year and a half ago he worked as an avionics engineer for a small aerospace firm, where he engineered avionics and display systems, and then at Lockheed Martin Corporation.
“I started right out of school and worked there for about five years and then left to study [at DTS],” he says. After completing his doctoral work in Scotland at Aberdeen University, he returned to the States and engineering to offset the cost of student loans. When he finally began working at the Seminary, he says, the organization and logic involved in his work as an avionics engineer paid off as a theology professor.
Today, instead of guiding missiles, Dr. Holsteen is guiding minds. And, as a closet pianist (he says “several traumatic recitals” cripple him from performing publicly again), Dr. Holsteen often connects with students not first with theology, but with music.
“If I go have a cup of coffee with someone I’ll ask them what they listen to. Since coming on faculty full-time I’ve been introduced to groups that I would never have listened to such as Linkin Park, Audio Slave, and Blue October.” On his personal iPod are tunes from Neal Morse, formerly of the band Spock’s Beard. “It’s progressive rock,” Dr. Holsteen says, “written by a Christian who is unashamed to talk about his faith.”
Such relevance with students has earned Dr. Holsteen the respect of his colleagues such as Dr. Scott Horrell, who says of him: “Nathan is a wonderful encourager, a can-do kind of professor, and he cares deeply about his students.”
“I don’t know why God blessed me with my lovely wife. I don’t know why He’s blessed me with my great kids. I don’t know why He’s blessed me with teaching,” Dr. Holsteen says, “But it’s a gift for which I’m grateful, and being [at DTS] is a blessing. Teaching is a joy.”
“My goal is to just be real,” he says. And in his effort to be real and avoid an air of superficial intellectualism, Dr. Holsteen rarely takes himself seriously. “One of the things I don’t like,” he says, “is people who go to seminary and go back to their church and are know-it-alls. I can be painfully quiet, especially at church, because I don’t want people thinking, ‘There he goes again.’ So I’m pretty much never serious. I think that would be what my friends would say about me—that I’m seldom serious.”
But while Dr. Holsteen is known for his good-natured spirit, his friends and colleagues such as Dr. David Purczinsky at McKinney Memorial Church in Fort Worth, are quite serious about the impact he’s had on their lives. “Nathan is real,” Purczinsky says. “He is not perfect and readily admits that, but he helps me to grow in my own shortcomings. I am a better husband, father, friend, and person because of my friendship with Nathan Holsteen. His legacy goes on through the people’s lives with whom he comes in contact.”
Such contact may come in the form of Donuts with Daddy, a discussion of the latest “prog rock” band, or from a lectern. Wherever it comes from, though, Dr. Holsteen says simply, “If I love something I want to live in such a way where people can see that I love it. I hope that shows up in the classroom because I love theology. I’m just wired that way.”