Anderson, Indiana

Jeeninga Fellow digging at Tel Hazor in Israel

Fri, 2012-07-20 11:50 -- univcomm
July 3, 2012

Anderson University School of Theology student Robert Heaton is currently participating in an archaeological dig at Tel Hazor in Israel. Earlier this year, Heaton was named the fifth Jeeninga Fellow in Archaeology and has received funding support from the fellowship.

In 1963, Dr. Gustav Jeeninga founded the Gustav Jeeninga Museum of Bible and Near Eastern Studies. Since its creation, the museum and its artifacts have served as inspiration to many Anderson University students. Jeeninga and his wife created the Gustav Jeeninga Museum Fellowship for Archaeology in 2006 for the purpose of encouraging and aiding AU students to study archaeology and the Bible in a hands-on environment.

To date, the fellowship has awarded five scholarships to individuals who are primarily engaged in biblical studies at an undergraduate level or attending the School of Theology (SOT). The grant gives students the opportunity to study in the Middle East for up to four weeks, participating in archaeological digs and excavations.

Heaton is working toward a Master of Theological Studies degree at the School of Theology. After becoming interested in the museum, Heaton was encouraged by AU faculty to apply for the fellowship.

“I was overwhelmed with a desire to know more about people from ancient times,” said Heaton. “The idea of visiting the land that is preserving things still to be discovered really interests me.”

Follow Heaton’s progress at

The opportunity to receive the Gustav Jeeninga Fellowship required intensive hours of filling out applications and planning the trip. “It is a highly competitive endowment program,” said David Neidert, director of student development at the SOT and the museum’s director. “Students have to write an essay highlighting their reasons for applying, along with mapping out their trip as far as costs and who they will be in connection with.” A committee of faculty from the SOT and the Department of Religious Studies choses the fellowship recipient.

Heaton hopes to one day teach at the undergraduate level. “In order to teach this information someday, I want to experience how people in biblical times were shaped by their connection in the land,” he said.

The Tel Hazor site is primarily focused on the ancient people of the Old Testament during the time periods of the Canaanite and early Israelite era. Heaton is working with a team of 30-40 people involved in a 22-year-long excavation. With no prior experience in archaeology, Heaton is excited to begin this new learning adventure.

“I am interested in this soil that holds so much history and learning more about the land and how it corresponds with the teaching in the Bible,” said Heaton. “The opportunity to travel to Israel and visit the Holy Land is something I am extremely excited for.”

— Hannah Schumacher is a junior from Bluffton, Ohio, majoring in communications arts and writing. Schumacher is an associate with Fifth Street Communications, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.