Skon leaves behind changed computer system, clubs, curriculum
Dr. James Skon will move on from MVNU at the end of this school year after 34 years of teaching.
Skon graduated from MVNC in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He went on to get both a master’s and a doctorate degree in computer and information science with specializations in artificial intelligence, linguistics and information retrieval from the Ohio State University in 1982 and 1997, respectively.
Skon first got into computer science as a freshman when he took a course and realized he “loved the creative process of designing and building software,” he said.
He was first introduced to MVNU through the Nazarene church he attended in Newark while dating the then-MVNC academic vice president’s daughter. Though his dad wanted him to go to OSU, Skon wished to attend a smaller Christian school.
Skon has impacted MVNU in many areas during his time here.
He worked with professor Wayne Yerxa and Dr. Darrel Falk to start MVNU’s first foreign-travel course, “Seminar in International Development,” to Belize in 1988. He later led trips to Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.
Skon also was a founding adviser for both the Mandate missions club and the MVNU cycling club.
Skon currently serves as computer science department chair. Back in 1987 he proposed the first campus computer network, but was turned down because it was something that would “probably never be needed at MVNU.” The first network was installed later in the early 1990s.
In 1994, Skon proposed that MVNU connect to the Internet.
“I remember clearly the first time I browsed the internet in 1995 from my office,” Skon said. “I was probably the first faculty to have an internet connection.”
From 2000 to 2004, Skon’s position at the university was fully endowed by the KarlNet corporation.
This allowed him to devote a portion of his time to the research and development of wireless networking systems.
“During this time I was able to participate in the creation of the first wireless router,” Skon said.
Some of Skon’s fondest memories of his time here are of spending time with students, whether it was in a Bible study or on one of his 25-plus trips abroad.
“The relationships we developed and the experiences we had were always beyond description,” Skon said. “Moreover, the Lord taught us all so much about his grace, love and compassion.”
Senior computer systems and network engineering major Jasmine Lamb appreciates Skon’s innovative tactics in the classroom.
“He is able to take one of the most boring sections and turn it into a fun activity,” Lamb explained. “When we had to learn about ethernet cables, he brought in all the materials and had us make our own.”
Lamb also admires Skon’s dedication to students, helping them be the best they can at what they do.
“Any time a student has an issue, he will take all the time that is needed to help the student know how to solve the issue,” Lamb said. “Dr. Skon pushes us every day to research more, learn more and become the best computer technicians possible.”
After this school year, Skon will leave MVNU to be a professor of math and computer science down the road at Kenyon College. He believes that helping Kenyon start a computer science major is exactly what God has been preparing him to do next.
“This is a very different school from MVNU, and I am very excited at the proposition of working with the new challenges at a new place,” Skon said. “I have always said that I like nothing better than a ‘good problem to solve.’”
Even though he’s heading elsewhere, Skon said it has been an “amazing privilege” to be able to work here at MVNU.
“I have always been in awe that I have been able to become a professor, working with, teaching and encouraging students at MVNU,” he said. “What could be a greater joy than to serve God by teaching and also getting to create and build things using my field of computer science? It has all been a dream come true; I’m sure I’ve been given much more by teaching at MVNU than I could ever give back.”