Mary Poplin

I grew up in Wichita Falls ' a conservative town in north Texas. As soon as I graduated from high school I went to Austin to attend the University of Texas. I was trying to escape boredom, and U.T. seemed the perfect place. In college I found myself trying to make sense of the world and trying to make sense of me in the world. In reality I was getting further and further from being able to do any of those things. I was seeking a kind of peace, and I didn't know where to find it. But I saw college as the opportunity to try everything. I decided to escape anything that made me feel low and go to anything that made me feel high. So parties were great. I began to experiment with all kinds of things. I had relationships with one guy after another. All my friends were drinking, so I drank. I began to use marijuana and LSD. I tried Transcendental Meditation classes, and read widely in philosophy. When I became a professor, my quest for meaning continued. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was becoming increasingly depressed. I went to my physician to talk to him about stomach problems. He talked to me and began ordering some tests. I remember very clearly breaking into tears and saying 'It isn't my stomach. It isn't my stomach.' He said to me in a shaky voice 'Have you ever thought of suicide?' 'Oh, no,' I replied. 'But sometimes I think about what it would be like to blow my head off.' I remembered that day that I had a former grad student who had told me that if I ever wanted to do something about my spiritual life, that he would help me. His statement had always bothered me ' I felt I was a spiritual person. I was even into the paranormal ' bending spoons. But I decided to give him a call. We met at a restaurant, and he asked me 'Why do you want to do something about your spiritual life?' Out of my mouth came words that I had never verbalized: 'Because there is a black hole in my chest.' He nodded and began to help me discover God.

My Life

Friends describe me

Thoughtful, generous, strong, fun, positive, zealous and adventurous (of course they are all horribly biased). I am certain they also know of many of my lesser qualities as well, but they wouldn't tell me when I surveyed them.

My hobbies

I like to garden, when I have time, mostly organic heirloom tomatoes with basil and jalapeno and Serrano peppers for guacamole and giant zinnias and sweet peas and the occasional succulent.

Fantasy dinner guests

My fantasy dinner would be if I could have been the servant at the Last Supper but maybe that is too much of a fantasy. I would love to serve at a dinner with Jean Bethke Elshtain, Dallas Willard, Pope Benedict, Michael Novak, George Marsden, T.D. Jakes, Jay

Best advice I ever received

There is no standing still in Christ, you are always either going backwards or going forward.

My undergrad alma mater

University of Texas

My worst subject in school

History -- but now I am intrigued by history and biography and the history of philosophy, schools and universities.

In college I drove

1955 Pontiac (my Dad's favorite car) and sometimes his 1964 Chevy, even though I was in college in the early 70s. My Dad kept cars a long time; I'm clearly his daughter as I am driving only my fourth car now.

If I weren't a professor, I would

Possibly would be a lawyer or maybe a doctor.

Favorite movies

I afraid I am TV and movie-challenged

Favorite city

Austin, Texas because it is large enough to have the arts and other special features of a big city and still small enough to get across town in less than a half day. Not to mention that it is near San Antonio and located in Texas, two more reasons.

Favorite coffee

In the summer, Decaf Mocha Frappuccino w/o whipped cream! In the winter, a decaf, soy, no-whip mocha. But really I am mostly an iced tea fan ' summer or winter.

Nobody knows I

Drive across the country, most every year, trying out different freeways, stopping to see the sights, on way to conferences and to see family. I really love all of the United States. I like to travel in other countries as well.

My latest accomplishment

I'm just completing a two year study of high performing teachers in urban schools. There is nothing more beautiful than watching great teachers work with students who have the least advantages. And my book on my experiences when I worked with Mother Teresa is about to be published by Veritas/IV,