After faithfully teaching on the Bob Jones University music faculty for 50 years, Dr. Karen Wilson, beloved professor and treasured friend of the University, will retire this spring.
After she leaves her position, she will continue her music ministry with Trinity Baptist Church in Gaffney, South Carolina, pastored by Dr. Ray St. John of the English department. She also intends to pursue her hobby of genealogy, which she has already used in her spare time to trace her lineage back to the French Huguenots.
“I don’t have any fear that I won’t be kept busy,” Wilson said.
At the age of 12, Wilson decided to attend BJU when a music ensemble from the University performed at Berean Baptist Church in Sciotoville, Ohio.
“I heard that musical ensemble, and I told my parents, ‘That’s where I’m going,’” Wilson said.
She began her college career at BJU in the fall semester of 1960, beginning her undergraduate work in piano performance.
Wilson stated originally she had intended to get her undergraduate degree at BJU and her master’s and doctoral degrees at different universities, but the Lord had different plans for her.
In a testimony delivered to the music faculty earlier this semester, Wilson recounted speaking with her private piano instructor during her senior year about graduate school.
Her instructor made a comment about her taking a graduate assistantship at BJU, and after some prayer, she decided to accept. The next year she started working on her master’s in piano performance.
After receiving her master’s, Wilson began her doctorate in musicology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. No sooner had she received her doctorate than she returned to BJU, ready to continue her teaching career.
As she continued teaching, her workload slowly increased, but she never lost her good attitude and love for her job.
Wilson said that her favorite part of her job is working with her colleagues and with her students, and for her, that work can include the occasional joke.
“I like to joke with my students,” Wilson said. “[A] sense of humor is important to me.” To Wilson, a little humor can help keep students from being intimidated and help them to understand she is there to help them and that she is human just like them. Nathan Kasper, a former student of Wilson’s, described her as “intense at times, but we always had fun.”
Times weren’t always easy during her tenure. When her father was in a car accident on Pleasantburg and became a quadriplegic, Wilson chose to take care of him herself rather than putting him in a nursing home.
With a full classload keeping her busy during the day and her father to take care of at night, she was pushed harder than she had ever been pushed before, so she relied heavily on God to help her manage her busy schedule.
“Bible verses really come alive when you have to rely on them,” Wilson said as she remembered the experience.
Verses weren’t the only thing the Lord blessed her with during this time. BJU faculty members took turns preparing meals for Wilson and her father for several months after the accident and offered her encouragement during the years that followed.
Dianne Pinner, a music faculty member and former student of Wilson’s, described her as “an example to me of joy in trials.”
Now, years later, Wilson is completing her 50 years as a faculty member in the music department.
In her address to the music faculty, Wilson recounted speaking with a graduate concerning her tenure here. When asked if she would have chosen BJU as her workplace, Wilson responded, “Yes, for the Lord so clearly has directed my steps.”