‘My life was forever changed’
As he approached graduation, Darrel Bigham '64 had little idea of what to do with his future. Luckily, Bingham's mentors nudged him towards applying for a Rockefeller Brothers Theological Fellowship—a decision that changed his life.
Reminded of his own experience as he read “Motivation and mentoring make the difference,” Darrel Bigham told The Bridge that he came to Messiah College uncertain of his future.
Even in his senior year, Bigham ’64 was undecided about his post-graduation plans. “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life,” Bigham said. “There were lots of risks.” After much soul searching and some sage advice from some trusted mentors, Bigham seized an opportunity—he applied for a Rockefeller Brothers Theological Fellowship, a full-year scholarship at a divinity school or theological seminary of his choice. Finally, after much prayer and lots of waiting, Bigham received a telegraph: “Harvard University has admitted you.”
Bigham remembers his year of studying theology at Harvard as “incredibly challenging and liberating.” Although he did not become a Brethren in Christ Church bishop, as his then-bishop in the B.I.C. conference hoped, or an ordained Episcopal priest, as his Harvard advisors assumed he should be, Bigham did pursue further graduate work in the field of history—a decision, he says, was “influenced by his graduate studies in religion and theology.”
Now a professor of history at the University of Southern Indiana, Bigham looks fondly upon his experiences, both at Messiah College and while pursuing graduate studies. He claims that, for that eager soon-to-be-graduate back in 1964, mentoring and motivation really did make the difference.
Bigham knows without a doubt that mentors—like former Messiah College dean Carlton Wittlinger and former dean of students Howard Landis, both of whom encouraged Bigham to pursue the Rockefeller Fellowship—gave wise counsel to one eager young student back in 1964. “One can never know what these opportunities will produce,” he says. “The results of my journey have been profound. My life was forever changed."