By: Timea Horvath
Photo By: Neighborhood Church in Chico, CA
From a small East Texas town of Nacogdoches, through the constantly bustling Chicago to Redding, California, Thomas Middlebrook has experiences like no one else.
A long journey of first being a timber framer to then becoming a graduate assistant and a pastoral fellow and elder has eventually drawn Middlebrook to Simpson University. He has been an assistant professor of Old Testament here for more than two years now.
Most Simpson students already have or will have at least one class with Professor Middlebrook during their time in college. He is known for his never-ending smile and those new, bright red glasses. His passion for teaching is visible during every class and students are often inspired by his lessons.
“He teaches in a way that inspires delight. He also cares about his students and creates space in the classroom for us to be there for one another in community,” said Kia Flack, a Biblical Studies major.
Dr. Middlebrook, however, didn’t always plan on becoming a professor. He is what some might call a true “renaissance man.” His numerous interests include sports (especially Frisbee Golf and Ultimate Frisbee), comics, board games, poetry, archeology, and more.
The passion for archeology, as Dr. Middlebrook said, began during his childhood when he started learning about Native American archeology with his father. During his graduate studies, Middlebrook went on several archeological excavations in Israel. He said that it perfectly combined his love for the Old Testament with archeology. He was part of leading multiple tours in conjunction with Jerusalem University College (Simpson also takes students there every other year). While excavating requires a lot of manual work and patience, Middlebrook said it was worth it. One day he found something very unusual.
“I’m cleaning off this one find with my thumb and I’m rubbing the mud off a very normal broken piece of pottery (probably spending too long cleaning it). I thought my fingerprint was on it when I realized that it was actually an ancient fingerprint. I was staring at an Israelite woman’s fingerprint from 3,000 years ago,” said Middlebrook. “That’s a human being with a story and just connecting to that story blew me away. That’s why I love it and I would love to get back to it one day.”
Despite his many talents, experiences, and deep connections with the people he met in different parts of the world, when Simpson University offered Middlebrook a job, he accepted it immediately.
“To move and get hired was a dream come true and this really is my dream job. Everything I do is so fun, exciting, and valuable that I can’t imagine doing anything else,” said Middlebrook.
Having such devoted, kind, and experienced professors is a rare find, like an ancient woman’s fingerprint, but many agree that Dr. Middlebrook is one of them. Simpson University is lucky to have him as part of the faculty.