Book Review: Panosian: A Story of God’s Gracious Providence

Dr. Edward Panosian is one of the most beloved professors of my alma mater. But Panosian: A Story of God’s Gracious Providence by Chris Anderson would be beneficial to more than those who knew the doctor as a teacher. It’s not only the fascinating story of God’s hand in one family’s life. It’s the story of a people that were almost completely wiped out in the nearly forgotten Armenian Genocide.

Dr. Panosian taught several history and church history courses at Bob Jones University, but he’s most well-known for History of Civilization. Nearly every freshman took that course. For me, that class was the first time history “clicked” for me as something other than meaningless names and dates.

Students quickly became aware of Panosian’s distinctive voice and mastery of his subject. He pointed out God’s hand throughout history and made history interesting and relevant to students.

Soon students came to know their professor’s kindness, warmth, humor. He is known for many famous sayings, which Anderson lists in the book. He was a fixture riding his bike around campus.

When Dr. Panosian introduced himself the first day of class, he mentioned that he was Armenian. I thought something like, “Huh. I’ve never heard of anyone from Armenia before.” In those pre-Google days, I was, sadly, not curious enough to look up Armenia then. But there was a reason I had never heard of Armenians.

Armenia was a small Christian part of the Ottoman empire, a mostly Muslim entity. Armenians were persecuted for decades, but their ill-treatment culminated in mass murder, rape, exile, forced marches after WWI. Dr. Panosian’s great-grandfather was murdered by a mob in his family home, in front of his wife and children. His grandmother could not escape with all the children. She took one ill son with her to America, and the rest were taken to an orphanage run by German missionaries in Beirut. She didn’t see them or hear from them for nine agonizing years. That they survived and were found is miraculous.

Dr. Panosian’s father’s story is also told, and then we learn how God led Dr. Panosian to his university, wife, and calling.

Betty Panosian taught speech, particularly storytelling. For years she told and read classic stories that were heard on a local radio station Friday nights. She has narrated a few books, and she and Dr. Panosian read Scripture on Scripture Meditations 1 and 2 CDs (some of the latter can be heard here).

Some might be familiar with Dr. Panosian through the university’s Unusual Films productions or through his multiple roles in various Shakespeare plays. His foray into acting had an amusing beginning.

Dr. Panosian also, at someone’s suggestion, created presentations of famous people in history, like Martin Luther, telling their story from a first person point of view. He has given these presentations at a number of churches around the country.

I have several places marked in the book. Here are just a few quotes:

After risking everything to come to America, and after enduring grueling journeys across the Atlantic in cramped and squalid ships, immigrants now had to fret about whether they would actually be let in. It wasn’t a given. Ellis Island was a place of inspection, interrogation, and sometimes quarantine. For some, it was a place of rejection. Imagine arriving so close to the American “Paradise,” only to be sent back to the very country you had fled. For some, Lady Liberty was a sentry, not a hostess. Debates over immigration policies are nothing new. If anything, the debate over granting asylum to refugees was more volatile a century ago than it is today (p. 62).

Betty Panosian tells how she needed a tutor to help her catch up in a class she missed part of to participate in a radio program: “I looked around the class to see who made the As, and I saw Ed. He always knew everything. And so I asked him if he’d help me; and he’s been helping me ever since” (p. 127).

When Dr. Panosian taught his last History of Civilization class after 48 years, he quipped, “This is the end of the history of civilization  as we have known it” (p. 144).

You might recognize author Chris Anderson’s name from his penning hymns like “His Robes for Mine” and “My Jesus Fair.”

I got both the paperback copy of this book plus the audiobook when it came out later. The audiobook is read primarily by Anderson, with Dr. Panosian reading parts. Betty Panosian and a few other voices contribute as well. It was so good to hear the Panosians’ voices again.

Here is a book trailer for this volume:

This trailer is a bit longer, with Dr. Panosian telling some of his story.

Though this book will have special meaning to those who knew the Panosians personally, I think anyone could gain much by reading it.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent)

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Panosian: A Story of God’s Gracious Providence

  1. Well, how interesting! I never heard of Dr. Panosian and his wife, and not the Armenian genocide either (or if I had, I have forgotten). But he sounds really fascinating. What a history! I love that you took a class from him too, and that he was able to make history come alive in such a compelling way. That’s a real gift.

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  3. WOW! This book must be very special to you since you actually took a class with him! What a history!! It sounds very interesting. Back when i was a teacher aide while the girls were younger, in our public school district, there was a student from Armenia. She was learning English as an elementary student I had never known anyone from there before.

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