(This article originally appeared in Lancaster Bible College’s online student newspaper, FOCUS.)
Sitting in the surprisingly comfortable red and black chair in Dr. Michael Freeman’s office, I brace myself for his words. I have been told of Freeman and his brutal honesty. As he looks at me, his eyes are filled with both tenderness and conviction, a reassuring gaze that communicates not only his care and acceptance, but also hope for my growth and betterment.
“Well, now we’ve seen what you can do, giving half of your effort,” Freeman says. “I’m willing to bet even you don’t know what you’re fully capable of if you really tried. So, how about we find out?”
This hard truth was the first of many I received from Freeman that challenged and shaped my college years. As I sit in the same black and red chair, years removed from the young student I was before, he shared his memories of previous students walking into his office, sharing their lives.
Over the past 25 years, Freeman, who serves as director of the communication major, has taught and advised hundreds of students. He first fell in love with the world of communication at a young age through literature. Throughout his childhood, Freeman spent his school days looking forward to going home where his mother would read aloud to him and his siblings the books assigned by his teacher.
One of his favorites, “Where the Red Fern Grows,” sticks out as having a lasting impression on him. He recalls the weeks that turned into months of anticipation as he and his family journeyed through the book together. He grew attached to the characters and the world inside the book only to feel extreme devastation as the story dwindled to a heart-wrenching end. It was the first time he recalls experiencing the power media can have on a person.
As he ventured toward college, he decided to study science but quickly found himself burnt out with zero direction for his academic career. Looking for a change, he left for one year to study abroad in England, where he found cultural studies. A course on television and the impact media has on society opened Freeman’s eyes. With a growing desire to learn more about the power of mass media, Freeman veered his academic course toward communication.
After finishing his bachelor’s degree in mass media theory and a master’s in media studies, Freeman became a Doctor of Education to educate the minds of the future on the power of mass media. Although educating his students holds considerable importance, Freeman carries a greater responsibility to shape the students entrusted to him.
Now, Freeman describes his reasoning for coming to work daily to be his students. Self-acclaimed as a “storyteller that tricks students into learning,” Freeman spends his days teaching students about media’s power to shape individuals and culture.
“I recognize that in some unique ways, I have the opportunity to be positioned as a father figure in the lives of my students,” Freeman said. “I try really hard to display unconditional love, particularly to those students that have a hard time receiving it.”
Kylie Islip (’22), a graduate of the Communication & Media Arts Department at Lancaster Bible College | Capital Seminary & Graduate School and former student of Freeman, shares the impact he had during her college years.
“He showed me that I shouldn’t sell myself short and I’m capable. He helped me find a career path that I love. He really guided me in my development as a Christian and communication professional,” Islip said. “I would flop into the chair in his office and start talking about what was happening in my life and classes. We would talk about academic things, but normally, by the end of our meetings, it led to a deeper conversation about struggles with friends or self-doubt. He would bring wisdom to my experiences and interactions with my fellow schoolmates. He really helped me to step back and see life from a different perspective.”
Freeman’s hope for each of his students as they graduate and move into adulthood is that they thrive spiritually and professionally.
“If I do my job well, they don’t need me when they transition to adulthood. Though it’s bittersweet, and I miss the opportunity I’ve had in their lives, I’ve had to stop being sad about my kids moving on and transition to being proud of what they’re accomplishing,” Freeman said.
With a warm chuckle, Freeman playfully dismisses the idea of a legacy, as if it were something reserved for the old and wise. Little does he know, his legacy is already alive and well, woven into the very fibers of his office chair, where generations of students have absorbed his unparalleled wisdom and compassion.
Claire Reynolds is a senior in the Communication major at Lancaster Bible College | Capital Seminary & Graduate School. She has studied under Dr. Freeman each of her three years in her major.