Written by Jared Stark '01

If you look closely, you’ll realize that it's him. It's Dr. Michael Case, long-time professor of Bible, running through the streets of York with his unmistakable gait. He likes to run, but mostly he likes to pray while he runs. A cancer survivor who has been cancer-free for 14 years, runs and prays 2.5-3 miles about 5 times per week. “I’ve learned to believe in prayer. I pray for my students. I pray for different people that I know,” said Case. And then he looks at me and says, “I pray for you.” I was one of his students. Two decades ago I sat in his classes and tried to absorb every word, spoken clearly but with a noticeable southern draw. 

As he is running and praying, the first few verses of Hebrews 12 cross his mind, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” And that’s what he is doing, running a race, with eyes fixed on Jesus. 

At nearly 70 years of age, his brain says it's time to retire from his faculty post of 32 years, but it's evident his heart doesn’t quite agree. His wife is ready to spend more quality time with him, and he admits he’ll need to find a few new hobbies. This is to be expected from a man who has immersed himself for more than three decades in the lives of students. Teaching has been what his whole life has been about. 

“I love the students. I love the classes. I love to see students grow. I wasn’t always patient, but I have learned to be patient. I love to see the look on their faces when they contemplate who God is, and that He loves them.” Case said.

And the students notice. Current YU student, Sofia Perez admits she cried when hearing the news of his retirement, “Dr. Case is truly one of a kind. I first had Dr. Case as a freshman. Now I am a senior taking him for my last Bible class at York University. Dr. Case has been someone who has demonstrated what being a Christian means. He is loving and caring for those around him unconditionally. My sophomore year, my aunt lost her battle with cancer and Dr. Case assured me that I would be able to make up for the work I missed being home in California. He told me he would be praying for me and my family. I knew he meant it. Every class Dr. Case ends with praying for us and for our campus because he truly loves each of his students and York University. Dr. Case has made an impact on my life that I will never forget and has shown me what it means to be a true follower of Christ.”

Dr. Case receiving a hug

Sofia’s testimony is one of many that current and former students would make. It's clear his long-standing ministry at York University has been powerful. 

A boyhood friend of former YU faculty and Bible Chair, Dr. Frank Wheeler, Case grew up in Arkansas. His dad served as an elder in Little Rock, Ark. Out of high school, he believed he wasn’t college material because of a harsh remark from a high school counselor, so instead he joined the Army and was stationed in Fort Sill where he served in an artillery unit for three years. While he was in the Army, he enrolled in a few college classes, did quite well, and came to believe that the high school counselor was wrong. After finishing the Army in 1975, he enrolled at Harding University in January 1976 and graduated three years later in December 1979. 

He and his wife of 47 years, Mary Ann, met while on a spring break campaign in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Growing up in the south in the 60s, he was surrounded by a racist culture. One of his passions became anti-racism, in response to that era and climate. It was during this campaign that he and Mary Ann served a predominantly black congregation and that time would shape his outlook on ministry. Mike learned to develop a persona that exhibits love for all people. His goal was to love them with both actions and words, and to show all people he cares about their plight regardless of the color of their skin.

dr. case

Yearbook photo of Dr. Case, 1992

Upon finishing at Harding, he enrolled in Harding Graduate School of Theology in Memphis. He finished his Masters of Theology in 1983, then began his career as a full-time minister in the northeast, a far cry from his boyhood home in Arkansas, but this is where his race led him. He began serving the church in Damascus, Maryland. While preaching in Damascus, he earned his D. Min. at Wesley Theological Seminary, located in Washington, D.C., only a short drive from his home in Maryland. After 9 years in Maryland, his race took another turn, and he got the call to come to York, Nebraska. 

Dr. Case arrived in York in August of 1992 in his red Chevy Astro Van carrying his wife, Mary Ann, and three boys, John, Matthew and Luke, who were all born in Maryland. His fourth child, a daughter, Angela, was born in York. He vividly remembers his visit to York to apply for a position on the Bible faculty. At the time of his visit, he was also weighing another offer for a Bible faculty position at Michigan Christian (now Rochester College). He and his wife, Mary Ann, wanted a safe community for their kids to grow up in and he figured York was much safer than the Detroit suburbs. 

When he visited, it was his old boyhood friend, Dr. Frank Wheeler, who picked him up from the airport. He stayed two nights in Frank’s home during his interview. He doesn’t remember being asked many questions, but he remembers meeting a lot of people and he remembers how he was treated. The President at that time, Larry Roberts, took him to lunch at Country Kitchen. Elmer Baker, the academic dean at the time, met with him and they discussed what it meant to serve on the faculty at York College. They attended church at East Hill Church of Christ where he remembers meeting Bob Lawrence, as well as Tom and Dottie Schulz. 

Hopeful that his next move would be to teach at the college level, his phone rang. Elmer Baker had beaten Michigan Christian to the punch and offered the opportunity for their family to move to York. They did. They moved into a big red house, 818 Iowa Avenue, and they have never left. 

It was with Tom and Dottie Schulz that he and Mary Ann formed a close bond. Dr. Tom Schulz was teaching Bible and Dr. Dottie Schulz was a professor of human resources. The Schulzes knew that as a new faculty member with young children, Mike would need all the support they could offer. Tom mentored him directly and shared a book with him that he remembers to this day, “Passion to Teach” by Parker Palmer. It shaped his teaching philosophy and he has Tom Schulz to thank for getting him through those early years as a professor. A few years into teaching, he re-envisioned who he wanted to be as a teacher. He wanted to be more student-oriented, more pastoral and acknowledged that it doesn’t matter if you have all the right footnotes if the kids don’t get the message. 

Former student Grant Rathe (‘03) remembers him this way, “I see a consistent, Christ-like individual in all the roles that he has been involved in. As a parent, husband, professor, minister and overall human being, Dr. Case demonstrates servant leadership, as Jesus showed us when he washed the disciples' feet and told them to do likewise. Although he has vast knowledge of Biblical studies and practical church ministry, he comes across as humble and always willing to take the time needed to help his students understand. I look back on the countless hours in his classes and remember them with a big smile on my face. It is obvious that Dr. Case has a passion for the Bible and for local church ministry, but the love and warmth that he shows his students is what has left the biggest impression on me.”

As his teaching style grew and he became more established as a professor, Case rejected the old model of “the sage on the stage” where professors would simply read off notes and would never look students in the eye. That was what he remembered his professors were like and he didn’t believe that philosophy would work at York College. Instead, he learned to immerse himself in the lives of students, and to this day, he uses this philosophy to really connect with students.

Dr. Case receiving award

Dr. Case receiving the Thomas N. Schulz Memorial Award

Dr. Dottie Schulz said, “When I think of Mike, I think of someone whose goal in life was to honor God in word and deed! He deserves every honor, but would never think of himself in that way. He has always looked out for the interests of others. He gives his time and has always had an open-door policy. His caring nature could not do otherwise because he cares about his students. He wants them to know Christ and to put the kingdom first in their lives, yet he knows they may have stayed up until 2:00 A.M. the night before. I have known him to wear overalls to class to keep their attention. I’m sure there have been times when Mike has been frustrated, but I’ve never experienced him as a complainer. He practices endless patience and one who has deep courage to stand and to do what is right, regardless of the cost!”

In addition to his faculty duties, Dr. Case has always made time for ministry. Case served two different Churches of Christ while teaching for York College. He served Holdrege Church of Christ, nearly two hours from York, from 1994-1998. He then served the Seward Church of Christ, a much shorter drive, 30 minutes away in Seward, Neb. for 23 years from 1998-2020. He also served as the President of M.A.P. (Masters Apprentice Program) a student-centered missionary program that sent students to Holland, Africa and Slovenia, and currently, he serves as an elder at East Hill Church of Christ in York, Neb.

His favorite class to teach is Philosophy of Living. He loves to start students with the idea of God’s existence and why they should believe in God. His goal has been to engage students on that topic in order to have them examine themselves and to invite them to consider that God might be calling them to something greater. He lists Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis as one of the most influential books in his life. Case believes that if he can help students get to a moment where they believe there is a God and that God loves them, then he could really impact their lives. And he did; he impacted the lives of students who, because of his friendly demeanor, were never too scared about opening their lives to him. One of his fondest memories is of students in his Greek class who ordered pizza to be delivered during class. The whole class dressed up in togas and enjoyed pizza and conjugated Greek verbs. He recounts that was one of his most enjoyable years teaching and he lists the Bible majors from memory… “Gage Myers, Kurtis Rutz, Lane Hinton, Jared Stark, Darrel Sears, Jeff Schipper, Bryan Johnston.” One of those students in that class is the writer of this story, and I remember the look on his face when he walked into a classroom full of students wearing togas; you could tell he was astounded, but also honored that we would relate to him that way… after all, he’s just running his race. 

Bryan Johnston (‘01), now a minister in North Bend, Ore. had this to say, “The kingdom of God has been blessed because of his faithfulness and service to God, influencing generations of Christ-followers. His passion and love for the Lord and the Word greatly shaped my life and prepared me well for my life as a minister. I remember his kindness and peace as my advisor as well as his wit and humor. I remember him sitting on the floor acting like an ancient scribe when teaching us about the work of those who wrote and made copies of God's word. His smirk and smile were always genuine. I am forever grateful for his teaching and modeling of a true mentor and master of relating God's truth and love.”

York University has much gratitude to show to Dr. Case, as do I personally. I was shocked, and yet I wasn’t, when during the interview for this article he said, “I remember talking to you about your schedule in this very building (Hulitt Hall) when you were a high school senior.”

Although he once felt Arkansas was his home, home is now York and he has no immediate plans to leave. For now, he plans to stay in York, but maybe not forever. He wants to preach and teach until his last days on earth. In his spare time, he reads a lot. 

“I love reading all kinds of books, devotional books, books about culture and ministry. I still want to write during retirement. I hope my wife and I can find a ministry to work in together, she also loves to serve people. I do a lot of reflecting. I am humbled by how things change. I was sad to see the Oliver House torn down but I like my office in Middlebrook and I’m still going to have an office on campus.”

Praying over Dr. Case

YU praying over Dr. and Mrs. Case

Dr. Case was honored today at “The Well” (YU’s daily chapel), not simply for his 32 years of service, but for the honorable way which he conducted himself during those 32 years. Dr. McNeese, who also recently retired, shared in his honor, “I don’t think I’ve ever met a scholar who is as empathetic as Dr. Case.” Dr. Garrett Best, shared passages from one of Cases’ favorite books of the Bible, 1 Thessalonians, reading chapter 2 verses 5-8 which so thoroughly defines his career, “As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed, nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.”

In retirement, Dr. Case wants to continue doing the same things he has always loved, teaching and preaching, running and praying. If you see him running through the streets of York, just think, he might be praying for you at that very moment, as he continues to run his race for Jesus.