Many professors struggle to make ancient philosophy resonate with the students who fill their lecture halls. Forrest Baird, philosophy professor and Core 250 team leader, has no such problem. Few students forget the moment Baird strides into class bedecked in a Care Bears bedsheet – his version of a modern-day chiton – embodying Plato and spouting his ideas of the perfect society.
Baird, who joined Whitworth’s faculty in 1978, has honed his acting skills over the years to bring to life the founding figures of Western philosophy and to demonstrate the practical applications of epistemology, hermeneutics and metaphysics to present-day human affairs. In the 1980s, Whitworth students wore togas in a Spokane County courtroom as they reenacted the trial of Socrates (played by student Ned Hayes, ’90). “It gives them a chance to take old ideas and put them into a new context,” Baird said. Even in the present day, when Baird appears on the Core 250 “stage” sporting the casual dress of his favorite philosopher, students know that they are about to be treated to a first-class lecture – and to a time-honored Whitworth tradition.