On the first day of the semester, students in one of Dr. John Bullard’s classes walked in to find he had written on the blackboard, “Piety is no substitute for scholarship.” On the second day of class, Bullard walked in to find that a student had replaced those words with, “All ye who enter here, abandon hope.”
“He chuckled and verified that both of the statements were true,” says Dr. Peter Moore ’69. “Dr. Bullard was an imposing scholar and teacher, but he also had a dry wit and a sense of humor.”
Bullard, who taught at Wofford for 40 years, died Feb. 11 at age 90. Moore was by his side.
“The last night of his life, I held his hand and said, ‘go with God.’ He squeezed my hand and peacefully drifted away,” Moore says.
Bullard joined Wofford in 1961, where he taught religion and humanities as the Albert C. Outler Professor and department chair. He retired in 2001.
Bullard was a mentor to countless Wofford students, including the Rev. Dr. Will Willimon ’68, professor of the practice of Christian ministry at Duke Divinity School, retired United Methodist bishop and a Wofford trustee.
“John Bullard transformed the teaching of religion at Wofford, making Wofford’s teaching of biblical studies a model in American higher education, training generations of church leaders who came through his classes,” says Willimon.
Willimon says when he learned of Bullard’s death, he picked up a book on Christian art that Bullard gave him when he graduated from Wofford.
“Part of the book’s inscription says, ‘To Will. Thanks for your conscientious work in my classes. Of course, more than conscientiousness will be required for success in your vocation. I know you will be up to it. Keep reading, keep studying, stay open to fresh revelation.’”
In 1997, Bullard oversaw the installation of a Holtkamp organ in Leonard Auditorium, a gift from the Duke University Chapel. The organ was named for William Preston Few 1889, the first president of Duke University. Bullard unofficially served as the college organist, playing for weekly worship services during the academic year and at convocations and other special events until his retirement.
An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, Bullard belonged to the Western North Carolina Conference for 50 years. A trained church musician, he served Spartanburg’s Central United Methodist Church as organist/choir director for 10 years and Bethel United Methodist Church for 16 years, overseeing the design and installation of a large pipe organ.
Since 1994, as organist for the Palmetto Moravian Fellowship, he also served on the board of directors of the Moravian Music Foundation. In 1977, Kentucky Gov. Julian Carroll and the state legislature commissioned him a Kentucky Colonel in recognition for favors to Kentucky singers in his choir at Bethel.
A world traveler, Bullard won a fellowship in 1970 for a 12-month sabbatical to observe the practice of non-Western religions in their homelands. He enjoyed traveling to England and joined a Charlotte, N.C., group that visits London annually.
Bullard regularly published book reviews for “The Diapson” international church music magazine. He also contributed 18 signed articles to “The Interpreter’s Dictionary,” including a book-length essay on the role of music in biblical interpretation.
In his last years, Bullard resided at Eden Terrace Assisted Living in Spartanburg. He spent most of his day chatting with the staff and visitors, Moore says.
“He loved his life there,” says Moore. “He referred to it as being on a cruise, without an ocean. Even in his final days, he had a smile for everyone.”