Philosophy at GFU

From 1954 to 1989, Arthur Roberts was philosophy at George Fox. He also taught church history, Bible and religion courses and served as department chair and dean. “On the side” Arthur published books of poetry, church history, theology and philosophy of science. Of course, George Fox College was much smaller then. But, as generations of students would testify, Dr. Roberts was an amazing and inspiring teacher.

In the early 1990s, a time of rapid enrollment growth, I had the privilege of succeeding my mentor as philosophy professor. The larger student body meant that I had mostly philosophy rather than the great variety of courses Arthur taught. In 1999, with more enrollment growth, we added a philosophy major, and we hired Dr. Mark McLeod-Harrison.

For a few years, Mark and I taught a relatively small major. We had perhaps a half-dozen students majoring in philosophy at any one time, and lots of non-majors populated our courses. But an upper-division major course with only a few students doesn’t really pay for itself. We knew we needed to attract more students.

The solution? Corey Beals. Dr. Beals is a George Fox grad with a PhD from Fordham University. He joined our faculty in 2004, and in 2007 he began “recruiting” philosophy majors by asking students in one-on-one meetings to consider the major. The power of simple things: In three years, we went from seven philosophy majors to 37. 

In 2008, we revised the major to make it better reflect the university’s Quaker ethos. Philosophy at Fox is not an ethereal or purely abstract discipline. We aim to keep philosophical work “grounded” – connected to ethics, personal relationships, care for the earth and peacemaking. Our burgeoning numbers seem to indicate that students appreciate it.

On March 3-5, George Fox will host the Pacific/Mountain Region conference of the Society of Christian Philosophers. Conference sessions are open to the public; for information, see the organization’s website:

Phil Smith
Professor of Philosophy, Department Head