Criswell News

Alumni Highlight: Dr. James Howard Hill Jr. ’14

Aaron Helm August 9, 2023

In the heart of South Dallas, amidst a military household, a young man named James Howard Hill Jr. embarked on a remarkable journey that would shape his life and career. He was driven by a deep curiosity and a profound passion for understanding religion and its impact on society. Little did he know that his path would lead him to become an influential alumnus of Criswell College, a respected scholar, and a beacon of subversive love.

Growing up, James was surrounded by the disciplined values instilled by his family’s military background. While his siblings followed in their parents’ footsteps, he decided to explore a different path—one that would involve the pursuit of knowledge and a profound understanding of faith. He became the first in his family to obtain a bachelor’s degree, and his thirst for learning would lead him to pursue higher education and make an indelible mark in the academic world.

It was during his time at a previous university that James discovered Criswell College. A dean who himself was an alumnus of Criswell recognized the critical thinking skills and academic rigor the institution offered, and he wholeheartedly recommended it to James. Intrigued by the prospect of challenging his mind and deepening his understanding of religion, James decided to enroll.

His time at Criswell College proved to be a profound and transformative experience, despite the obstacles he encountered. As one of the few black students during that period, James endured feelings of isolation and believed that his voice often went unheard. What he experienced as a parochial perspective on literature and discussions at that time restricted the diversity of ideas he yearned for. He had a general frustration with the institution’s limited efforts toward inclusivity.

However, amidst these obstacles, there was one individual who would change the course of James’s life—Dr. Alan Streett. Through Dr. Streett’s classes, James not only found intellectual challenge but also discovered a whole new perspective on scripture. Dr. Streett illuminated how Jesus was subversive, directly challenging oppressive authority and promoting acts of love and service. The Kingdom of God, as taught by Dr. Streett, was not confined to personal decisions but extended to impacting society and welcoming all, especially those on the margins.

This encounter with Dr. Streett became a turning point for James. It sparked within him a desire to live out the gospel of the Kingdom of God in a powerful and subversive way. With a heart full of love for humanity, he sought to be a light in the darkness, bringing excitement and hope to the next generation. Inspired by his mentor, James decided to pursue teaching positions at non-Christian institutions, where he could stand alongside those on the margins of society, advocating for justice and compassion.

Having obtained a bachelor’s degree from Criswell College, James continued his academic journey, earning a master’s degree from Southern Methodist University and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University. Throughout his career, he taught at esteemed institutions such as SMU, Northwestern, and Oklahoma University. Most recently, he accepted a teaching position at Boston University, where he continues to inspire and educate young minds.

Reflecting on his experiences, James offers valuable advice to those desiring to embark on a Christ-centered career. He emphasizes the importance of a liberal education, urging individuals to commit themselves to self-reflection and daily assessment of their place in the world and the Kingdom of God. Trusting the Spirit of God and cultivating curiosity are essential ingredients for discovering one’s vocational calling.

Dr. James Howard Hill Jr. stands as a testament to the power of education, mentorship, and a resilient spirit. His journey from South Dallas to esteemed institutions and beyond serves as an inspiration to those who dare to challenge societal norms and seek a deeper understanding of faith. Through his teachings and unwavering commitment to subversive love, he exemplifies the transformative impact that one person can have on the world.

As Dr. Hill continues to navigate his career, his unwavering dedication to his calling and his determination to stand with those society often overlooks remain at the forefront. His alma mater, Criswell College, has played an integral role in shaping his values and perspective. Although he faced challenges during his time there, it was the mentorship of Dr. Alan Streett that left an indelible mark on his heart and compelled him to carry the torch of subversive love into the world.

The story of Dr. James Howard Hill Jr. is one of resilience, intellectual curiosity, and unwavering commitment to living out the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Through his teachings and actions, he continues to inspire others to challenge the status quo, foster inclusivity, and spread the transformative power of love. As he walks his path, guided by the Spirit, he leaves an enduring legacy of hope, compassion, and the pursuit of knowledge for future generations to follow.


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M.A. in Christian Leadership

Criswell College admits students who are Christians of good character, without regard or reference to race, national or ethnic origin, color, age, disability, or sex (except where regard to sex is required by the College’s religious tenets regarding gender and sexuality) to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of these classifications in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and other school-administered programs.