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“An Act of Providence,” a tome covering the University’s first 50 years of existence, has received the History Writing Award for Institutional History from the Texas Baptist Historical Society, according to an official press release published on Feb. 2.
The 576-page book, written and compiled by Dr. Don Looser, vice president emeritus, and published by the Houston-based Halcyon Press, will be recognized during the annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas in Corpus Christi in November.
“I was delighted to learn of the award, of course,” said Looser, who spent three years researching and compiling the text. “The award is an academic peer recognition by other Baptist historians of qualitative merit. In that sense, it lays a mantle of recognition on the work for others to see and to respond.”
A representative from the Texas Baptist Historical Collection notified Looser of the distinction after he submitted five copies of the book to the Historical Society in June 2011. The society lists 12 guidelines for submissions, including that the work focus on a subject related to Texas Baptist history.
President Robert B. Sloan Jr. described the book as a landmark publication that marks a landmark moment — “An Act of Providence” was published near the University’s 50th anniversary — in the life of the institution.
“He wrote a history that is detailed but still readable, comprehensive without being dull and a tribute to the University while also being historically honest,” the president said. “Dr. Looser richly deserved this award.”
Looser and Dr. Doug Hodo, former president of the University, conceptualized the project in the 1990s, according to an article published in The Collegian in October 2010. The two eventually presented the project to Sloan shortly after he took office in 2006. Looser, who joined the faculty of the University — then known as Houston Baptist College — in 1964 and spent 46 years working here, soon began working on it after the University commissioned the book.
He retired from his position as vice president in 2007 but remained on campus to complete the text, consulting board of trustee meeting minutes, personal documents and the bound archives of The Collegian to finish his award-winning book.
Dr. Harold Raley, senior editor and co-founder of Halcyon Press, said he was delighted to learn of the award. “I have nothing but praise for Dr. Looser’s work,” said Raley, who formerly served as a dean and professor in Spanish at the University. “He is an excellent writer and really captured the history of the University. I stand in awe of the way he did it with such thoroughness and a sense of balance.”
“An Act of Providence” was also recently made available on Amazon.com, expanding the availability of the text that had an original run of 1,500 copies.
Looser said he was pleased with the new development. “I am greatly thrilled about this last opportunity and bought the first copy sold by Amazon myself to indicate my enthusiastic response to this marketing expansion,” he said.
“To my delight, the book has become a reference volume for those who are charged with researching and writing material, which has relationship to aspects of University history. It is wonderful to see the efforts to note, annotate, index, list and quantify serve a useful purpose to those who write about the University.”