B.A., Thomas Aquinas College, 1987; Ph.D., Philosophy. University of Notre Dame, 1993; O’Brien Fellowship, University of Notre Dame, 1987-1988; Dissertation Year Fellowship, University of Notre Dame, 1991; Bradley Fellowship, University of Notre Dame, 1991-1993; Faculty, Christendom College, 1993-2007, Chairman, Department of Philosophy, Christendom College, 2002-2004; Tutor, Thomas Aquinas College, 2007-.
A: I believe my sister suggested I read Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book, the second half of which is really an argument for a great books education; it completely convinced me. I saw that at the College not only was the curriculum made up of the great books, it was also truly Catholic. I never seriously thought about going anywhere else.
Q: How did you decide to be a teacher?
A: Prior to attending college, I had given little thought to after graduation. When I got here, though, I loved the program to so much that I felt compelled to share what I was learning. For a while I didn’t know how I would do that, but eventually teaching seemed the best fit for my temperament and abilities.
Q: Where did you choose to do your graduate work?
A: Several graduates of the College alumni were at the University of Notre Dame working with Dr. Ralph McInerny, and they gave him rave reviews. He was a serious Catholic, a serious philosopher, a Thomist, and a great teacher. So my classmate and soon-to-be wife, Suzie (Zeiter ’87), and I decided to apply there. We were both accepted into the philosophy program; I got a doctorate, while Suzie decided to stop with a master’s.
Q: Where have you taught?
A: I taught introductory philosophy courses at Notre Dame during my last two years as a graduate student, but most of my experience is from my 14 years at Christendom College. Christendom was a great place for me to teach, a truly Catholic school that took seriously the study of St. Thomas’ philosophy, and I was really lucky to get the chance to teach there, to deepen my grasp of philosophy and share that with many tremendous students.
Q: What attracted you to teach at your alma mater?
A: I just never had gotten the great books out of my blood. Classroom discussion, crossing the lines between disciplines, reading the best books, not textbooks — you can only do all of that at a place like Thomas Aquinas College. I just had to try to get involved with that again.
Q: What is the application and interview process like?
A: I continue to be impressed by how rational the application process is. The College is serious about finding faculty members who are a good fit for its program, and the prospective tutor can really see how each step in the process helps them, and himself, decide. I think every applicant can be confident that the decision for both sides will be informed and reasonable.
I enjoyed interviewing for my position. Leading a seminar of students at the College was a joy: they’re smart, they’re polite, they’re interested and interesting. The faculty was welcoming and helpful, willing to discuss anything, not just their specialty. Even the interviews were learning experiences for me.
Q: What are your teaching assignments this year? Do you enjoy one class more than another?
I’m teaching Senior Philosophy, Freshman Language, and Freshman Seminar. I don’t think that I have a favorite among these, but the seminar is most strikingly different from what I’ve done before. It meets at night, it goes for two hours, and it’s a freewheeling discussion of just about any kind of great text under the sun, from philosophy to literature to history. It has forced me to stretch my limits and broaden my abilities, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do.
I enjoy both the freshmen and the seniors. The freshmen are enthusiastic, filled with wonder, and a little wild, but that keeps me on my toes. The seniors that I have are great; they retain that original wonder, but their discussions are remarkably orderly and disciplined.