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Gary PraticoWe would love to hear your experiences and memories of Dr. Gary Pratico from when you were a student at Gordon-Conwell, or as a colleague. Feel free to submit a story, memory or words of thanks to Dr. Pratico.

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Expressions of Gratitude for Dr. Gary Pratico RSS Feed
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Thank You Dr. Pratico

My seminary experience at Gordon-Conwell in the early 90's was made richer by my exposure to the instruction of a Master Teacher, Dr. Gary Pratico. I began the study of Hebrew with great trepidation; I was not even certain that I would actually be able to learn the written language of biblical Hebrew. However, Dr. Pratico very painstakingly, precisely and uncompromisingly took us on a journey to learn the very basics of pronunciation, vocabulary, verb stems and other grammatical forms that were key to a beginning and ongoing study of the Hebrew Bible. With his patient teaching and the tutoring of Dr. Carol Kaminski, I finally actually "got it" and actually did well in the course. However, even beyond the academics of Hebrew study, I remember being so impressed with the devotion to God that simply exuded from this great teacher. Clearly his was a heart and life captured by the God of the Bible, made known through Jesus Christ. This was the source of the passion with which he taught us. Dr. Pratico, may you be richly blessed in this next season of your life.                                                                                                                                            Rev. Marcella Charles, M.Div. 1996                                                                                                    Senior Pastor, Immanuel Church of the Nazarene in Boston


Praise the Lord and thank you, Dr. Pratico

It was a very long time ago that I took four courses from you (1984-85).  I remember them today as though just yesterday. Those were days of rich discovery for a young man from the business world turned to consider the things of God.  But it was the spirit of the thing that made it what it was for me.  Gordon was a place of many very fine theologians and I could sense it then even if only to realize much later what God had done for me.  But it was the spirit of the thing that made it what it was.  I still treasure those days as my happiest on earth due in large part to men like you.  Now, still teaching and preaching, I lean heavily upon both the content I was taught and the demeanor I was shown.  It truly was the spirit of the thing that made it what it was.

Bill Hobbs (M Div 1986)

Model Teacher

When I had the opportunity to take an elective to finish out my New Testament degree, I jumped at the chance to register for Hebrew.  Dr. Pratico did not disappoint.  While the finer points of the grammar have long since moved to the recesses of my mind, the model that Dr. Pratico provided as a professor has remained before me in my own teaching.  His love for the Lord, the Word, and the students who were entrusted to him was evident.  He patiently and painstakingly stooped down to assist us in the most basic matters (which he had already covered adequately) when they didn't quite click while nonetheless holding the bar high and compelling us to work that much harder to master the material.  Thank you for investing so much of yourself in your students.


Karelynne Gerber Ayayo

MAME 1998

MANT 1999

Hail to the Melek.

Going to class with Dr. Pratico was always a treat because he not only taught in a way that made the Hebrew language accessible, he would pastor our class. It felt like to him, Hebrew was just the means to care for his students. He gave us incredible exegetical insight and he did it while building camaraderie and sharing many laughs. If there was one memory I would share it would be the day when he casually mentioned that he wrote the Basics of Biblical Hebrew by hand. Our entire classed stopped and pressed him for details. He told us that he wrote it on legal pads and in a cabin with no electricity, in the middle of the woods in some small New England town, or so the legend grew.  He told us he still has the manuscripts. It was a hilarious moment and was definitely a highlight of my seminary career. If all my Hebrew knowledge were to disappear tomorrow, I would still know that Gary Pratico deeply cares for those he teaches and that has contributed as much to my pastoring as knowing Hebrew has, probably more. MMMMMMMMELEK!

Calvin Chu MDiv 2012

Prayer, Modeled

There is a real thrill for a student to learn from the professor who “wrote the book” on a subject. I have enjoyed many conversations with friends who have taken Hebrew from other seminaries using Dr. Pratico’s grammar, and it never gets old to speak about being taught by the Velvet Hammer himself.

My favorite story from class would certainly have to be the day we asked about what it was like writing the book. After some very humble attempts to avoid the subject he ended up sharing the following details (as I remember them): that the majority of the textbook was written during a sabbatical spent at a cabin in the middle of the woods, written entirely by hand on legal paper. He told us that he still had the original stack of paper he handed off to Miles Van Pelt to be digitized. When he told us that story, the amazement we had with Dr. Pratico reached legend status.

There has already been much emphasis on the quality of his instruction, but I also wanted to echo the significance of his modeled devotion to God, specifically through prayer. When Dr. Pratico would lead prayer at the beginning of class, I never wanted it to end. His prayers had a particular gravity to them that I believe reflected his own personal faith in our glorious and holy God. Prayer was never a simple item on the agenda before class, it was the fuel to drive our pursuit of knowing God through the study of His Word in the original text; what a undeserved privilege.

I am so very grateful for Dr. Pratico; an incredibly brilliant yet exceedingly humble servant of God.

 Zachary A. Hopkins

M.Div, 2012


Summer Hebrew and the Grace of God

By the second day of the second week of Summer Hebrew I was drowning. A long way from my North Carolina home, hanging on for dear life to the possibility of graduating with a gold sticker on the sheepskin, and utterly overwhelmed by the task at hand; I went to Dr. Pratico's office. 

From years of experience he quickly understood my dilemma and asked me two simple questions: "Do you understand what we covered today?" (No) And, "Do you understand what we covered yesterday?" (Yes!) "Then", he said smiling, "tomorrow you will understand what we covered today."   Ah! 

Then he said this, "Jon, summer hebrew is just as much about the grace of God as the language." I can honestly and gratefully say that from Gary Pratico, I learned of both. 

Thanks Dr. P - I'll send more cookies this Christmas! 

Your Moravian friend, 

Jon Boling

Pastor, Ardmore Moravian Church, Winston-Salem 

A Spirit-Filled Man, A Teacher

Dr. Pratico is an amazing teacher.  I was privileged to have three classes with him: Hebrew I and II, and an independent reading course in the Hebrew Old Testament.  I learned so much in from Dr. Pratico, not only enough Hebrew to embark on a lifelong study of the Hebrew Old Testament, but also how to teach.  I thought his classes were as valuable for their pedagogical example as for their content, which says a lot.  But this still is only half for which I want to thank Dr. Pratico.  He began his classes with prayer.  Often drawing on the puritan prayers found in The Valley of Vision, the earnest, fervent, devoted prayers of this man of God were a blessing to me.  I think the Valley of Vision was the first book I bought after graduation, and it has served me well in my first year of pastoral ministry.


Randall Thissell, Pastor

Port Clyde, Maine

MABL 2013


'Worth But A Few Chickens'

This story is a favorite of mine and I've repeated it dozens of times in my twenty five years in ministry.  It was related to us students in a basic Hebrew class some time in the ealry to mid-eighties during my tenure at GCTS.  I will be surprised if it has not already been told and forgive the repetition (and don't feel the need to post it) if it has.

Gary was relating his experiences whilst on a dig in the Sinai (I believe).  His intention was to relate both the Near Eastern emphasis on hospitality to strangers and the matter of marriageable daughters and the negotiations thereunto.

He said that his practice was to work the archeological dig and then seek shelter in a Bedouin encampment for the evening rather than travel all the way back to 'civilization'.  The came to one of these encampments and were indeed politely and warmly invited in for a meal and a night's rest by the head of the family.  Gary (through his driver) expressed his appreciation for the welcome and hospitality and then asked a question concerning something he had observed in many of the Bedouin encampments by which they had traveled.  He had noticed that in front of many of the encampments there flew one or even several large white flags.  This particular encampment, in fact, was flying three of the white flags.  "What did they mean," Gary asked?  

A gleam entered their host's eye as he listened to the translation, and then he answered with a broad smile.  "Oh," he said, "those flags tell the number of marriageable daughters in the family.  I, as you can see have three.  Would you like to met them?"  Not wanting to be impolite Gary answered "Why, yes, certainly."

The chief then called to a back section of the tent and after a bit of commotion and delay, three veiled, rather sturdy and buxom young ladies made an appearance and were introduced.  After they were dismissed their father, beaming with pride said "Worth many goats!"  And then he asked the (perhaps inevitble) 64 dollar (or perhaps in this case 64 goat) question:  "Are you interested?"

Gary, somewhat embarassed, answered quickly, "Oh, no thank you very much but I am already married."  The Bedouin after some general words praising the joys of the marital estate asked Gary if he, perhaps, had a picture of his bride?  Gary took out his wallet and showed the chief a picture of his lovely wife.  A lovely willowy blonde.  "This," Gary said with some pride of his own, "is my wife, Mary." (I am fairly certain that was the name he told us).  The Bedouin took the picture, studied it intently for a moment, and then handed it back with a short comment and cluck of something like disapproval!  "Ahhh....worth but a few chickens," the driver translated.

The class dissolved in laughter at that point but we understood in a very real way the ancient near Eastern obligations of hospitality as well as the attitude toward daughters and toward marriage.

David F. Crow
M.Div. 1982
Pastor, Bethlehem Presbyterian Church
Mebane NC


A Discover Weekend and Summer Hebrew

My father and I had come up to visit Gordon-Conwell on one of the "Discover Weekends" prior to my actually moving onto the Hamilton campus.  These many years later my father and I still recall Dr. Pratico's exposition of Genesis 15 in light of the ancient Suzerain-Vassal Treaty form.  Nothing that weekend touched us more than his presentation of God's Presence "walking between the pieces".

It was tough, but it was also a privilege to study Hebrew under Dr. Pratico during the summer.  I remember once in class he called out my last name in Hebrew ("Mr. Shmuel").  I was delighted that I responded without much delay.

Thank you, Dr. Pratico, for sharing your great gifts with a humble heart.  I have now been a pastor on Long Island, New York for over 16 years.  Thank you for being the passionate voice on that Discover Weekend over twenty years ago proclaiming to us the immeasurable immensity of God's grace.

Stephen Samuel, M. Div., 1995




The Velvet Hammer

I once told you that I was trying to get your nick-name changed from "The Velvet Hammer" to "Easy A Pratico." You smiled and said: "Not having much luck with that are you David?"

Neverthless, you were always more velvet than hammer. Your scholarship and excellence in the classroom provided a firm foundation foundation for your students as we moved into Hebrew exegesis while your obvious care for us as individuals set an example for us in ministry and in life.

May the LORD continue to bless you!

David A Booth, M.Div. 2009

The Velvet Hammer

With Dr. Pratico every "Jot" and "Tittle" had to be just right on the exams or the red ink would flow! His high expectations for precision in Hebrew, and the classy way he conducted himself, along with his sensitivity and care for the student earned him the title of the "Velvet Hammer" among my peers. Of course his passion for precision was because of his commitment to God's Word and his love for the Author Himself.  It was a joy to study Hebrew under such supervision (Summer '98) and a pleasure to spend a couple of weeks in Israel (Spring '00) with him as well. 

Many Blessings,

Daniel Moore - M-Div/ThM 2000

Old Testament Survey- has stayed with me

What an incredible experience that class was.  Coming from the business world, having been a Christian for over 30 years and having my first exam in that amount of time, I flunked the first exam.  The "velvet hammer" struck.  Your incredible encouragement and patience worked for me and was I able, with God's help,  to make a B for the course.  The most important learning was your wonderful portrayall of The Convenants of God, the building of the temple and most of all Hessad (sp?), God's unconditional Love. To this day, those stories and the impact of your teaching has stayed with me.   I am blessed to have had you as a professor.  Many Blessings to you and Mary!

Shelly Moran (1992) MA Counseling.

Grammar Test Case...

If my memory serves me, I was in Dr. Pratico's first "test group" for his hebrew grammar ('98-'99). And now, when I tell people that I learned Hebrew from "the man," Dr. Pratico, they stand in awe. :) If only they knew that Dr. Pratico cared more for us students and the purity of the gospel than his reputation, they'd have been even more impressed. Thanks, Dr. Pratico, for your incredible contribution to kingdom work.


Jason Malec, MA Th, '99

Thank you

Thank you for being willing to work with me on my thesis- your insight and our conversations were formative for me as I worked material into curriculum. And during that process, thank you for your wisdom, patience, prompting and amazing ability to answer questions and then anticipate my next questions before I even figured them out!  The outline of the Story of the Bible (God with us) that you helped me with continues to be tweaked and has become the backbone for all of my classes.  Thank you for investing in me, in my decision-making processes, and in my students.    Elisabeth   2012 

Just want to say thank you.

Dr. Pratico, 

I want to thank you for not giving up on me and working endlessly with me to pass Hebrew. I have never forgotten your compassion and willingness to help someone who struggles with language including English. I look forward to seeing you next month.

Rev. Dean A. Stiles, 2000


Grace and Hebrew

Coming from a successful almost 20 year career in business, I wasn't used to failure in any form, but then again, I had never taken two semesters of Hebrew back to back in the Summer.  I will always vividly remember myself in Dr P's office, having just failed the 2nd quiz in a row, having expended everything I had and every spare minute trying to learn, in tears and at wit's end.  I also remember kind, softly spoken words of encouragement, the extra help, and a real understanding of what Grace means.  Thanks Dr P for helping one more struggling student off the floor and into the pastorate.  You have been a blessing to so very many of us!!!  David W Mantz (class of 1999)


In the Dark, yet able to See

I was born legally blind, but with modern technology and a "True Teacher" I learned Basic Hebrew with Dr. Pratico.  He was patient and kind.  I would ask him a question that I knew he had heard many, many times before, but he would answer me as if it was the first time he had heard the question.   


Douglas Tubach


M.Div 1997


All we had to do was do what you said to do, and the next thing we knew, we "got it" - Hebrew. Pretty amazing.

Dr Pratico: 

10 summers ago, I sat in the front row ... to try to get a grip on an "impossible" subject... You made it easy.  One particular dynamic I remember was my mind wandering as I tried to track with you... and through my fog, I would hear the inflection of your voice go up.  It drew my eyes back to you so often that I told you about it, because I wondered if you were doing it deliberately.  You laughed and nodded and said something about having taught for a long time!  It was delightful.  Thank you.

Joy Carren (MDiv 2006)


Summer Time, Summer Time, Summer Time

Dr. Pratico,

Being taught the Hebrew language during the Summer is a great challenge to both student and teacher.  It was a joy though to be under your tutelage.  There is a reason why students like myself understood and reverently, lovingly nicknamed you "The Velvet Hammer".  Your gift was to teach with grace.  The work was hard and difficult, but at the same time I looked forward to each class.  Your pastoral heart, pushing, encouraging at the same time defining that plumb line of acceptance is a blessing that has never been forgotten and desired to be emulated to others through my ministry.

Thank you for your obediece to the Lord.  Thank you for sharing and pouring your life into students like me via your role as instructor.  I deeply appreciate the molding and equipping of the Lord through you.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Shaun Arthur DuFault

M-Div 2003

With Gratitude for a "Fastidious" Role Model

Let’s face it, we southern Italians have a limited number of indigenous role models who exemplify warmhearted theological reflection.  Sure we have Thomas Aquinas, but otherwise it’s a modest list. You can therefore imagine how delighted I was on my first day of Hebrew class when Professor Pratico described his tomato sauce with as much enthusiasm as he explained syllabification. “Fastidious” seems like an appropriate description, partly because he used the word in most lectures, and also because it describes his character… fastidious in scholarship, in sartorial sense, and most of all in devotion to Christ. In this vein, he once said, “I am a shell of a man apart from the empowering grace of Jesus.” Thanks, Gary, for being a role model who inspired me to more ardently pursue Christ! 

Chris Castaldo (M.Div, 2002)
Director of the Ministry of Gospel Renewal at the Billy Graham Center