In addition to bidding farewell to the seniors at the end of the academic year, the College of the Holy Cross is seeing off 11 faculty members: Hussein Adam, Mary Hobgood, Patrick J. Ireland, James M. Kee, Rev. Anthony J. Kuzniewski, S.J., Alice L. Laffey, Esther L. Levine, John E. Lincicome, Richard E. Matlak, Susan Rodgers and Charles (Chick) Weiss. The faculty, who will be jet-setting off to new adventures, shared reflections with us on their many years at the College and what will come next.
Hear from some of them in this Q&A:
associate professor of English
What is your favorite course to teach?
My favorite course to teach is, of course, Southern Literature. Though I’m from Kentucky, a former slave state in the Union, which really is a border, not Southern, state, I was born and raised in the very area that is the setting of both “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Beloved”, and I have a deep affection for the work of Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor.
Where is your favorite spot on campus?
This is going to sound bizarre, but there are two: the Loyola and upper Hogan parking lots. Loyola, because of the wild turkeys that sometimes haunt the place. It reminds me of the “South Park” parody of “Braveheart,” when an army of turkeys invades the Colorado town. Upper Hogan, because from there you can see Mt. Wachusett, and on a clear day, even Mt. Monadnock, and, well, forever.
The Mass Foundation for the Humanities has offered me a part-time gig to continue my Literature and Medicine seminars for medical researchers at a biomedical research center; I’ve run these seminars for the last 10 years at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Newton-Wellesley Hospital and UMass Medical School. I also did a variation of the seminars at Holy Cross, teaching Literature and Science and Literature and Medicine in the Montserrat program.
professor of English
Can you describe a time when your teaching and scholarship complemented each other?
I cannot remember a time when my scholarship did not deeply inform and complement my teaching. In my intellectual life, I have been motivated by my conviction that the great texts and symbols of our philosophical and revelatory traditions have become separated from the experiences they once articulated. For this reason, they seem meaningless or illusory to many.
The key to reconnecting these texts and symbols to our experiences — to enabling them once again to illuminate these experiences — is to learn how to interpret them effectively. From my days as an undergraduate, therefore, I have made “hermeneutic phenomenology” a focus of scholarly research and reflection. This tradition of thought has informed every course I have ever taught — sometimes tacitly, sometimes more explicitly. It has taught me how to help students find “lived experience” in the literature that they read.
How do you see your work as a teacher and scholar supporting/contributing to the mission of Holy Cross?
For me, the intellectual life has the general form of “faith seeking understanding.” I began my graduate training in religious studies. I soon discovered, however, that my preferred method of doing theology was to interpret literary texts that had religious dimensions to them. I have tried to do this in all of my teaching and scholarship.
I have never accepted the conventional distinction between an intellectual life that must be secular to be professional and a religious life that is inherently private, a matter of mere belief. This distinction is not well grounded philosophically; it is ideological. I have, therefore, always shared with my students my own engagement with “fundamental religious and philosophical questions,” my own search for meaning and truth.
Is there any memorabilia from your office that you will keep?
In 2003, I teamed with good friend Jim Noonan, our assistant director of ITS, to win the Blackstone Cup at Blackstone National Golf Club in Sutton, Mass. A large plaque commemorating that victory has hung on my office wall ever since. It often served as a good conversation starter with many students and advisees — especially new ones. Most students don’t expect literature professors to be golfers.
professor of history
I will still be employed full-time at Holy Cross after July 1. Fr. Boroughs and I were in the same small community in Chicago as Jesuit seminarians. When he arrived to assume the presidency, I told him that I was getting older, and if he saw something else I could do, he should feel free to ask me. After some time, he asked me to move to half-time teaching and half-time work in the alumni office. So I will be professor emeritus and assistant director of advancement.
How do you see your work as a teacher and scholar supporting the mission of Holy Cross?
Supporting the mission of the school has been an imperative for me as a Jesuit who is also on the faculty. I have tried to bridge the gap in students’ lives by serving as chaplain for a number of teams, by helping with the silent retreat program and regular liturgical participation. For faculty and staff, I have been director of retreats.
A high point of my service to the mission was my participation in the Ignatian retreat last year in Spain and Rome. Beside the faculty and staff from here, there were participants from Georgetown, Loyola (Baltimore), Xavier University and Marquette University.
Do you have any classroom rituals?
A classroom ritual is that I start each class with a prayer — a modified version of Ante Studium (Before Studies) by St. Thomas Aquinas.
My favorite courses include American Heroism (for the inspirational value), Age of Jackson (for the lively characters and development of constitutional law), Lincoln and His Legacy (with the amazing President Lincoln at the center of an enormous tragedy) and the seminar on the history of Holy Cross (for being with students as they come to understand our institutional heritage).
associate professor of religious studies
Who would play you in a movie about your teaching career? What is it about?
I haven’t a clue who would play me. I would like to believe it would be a female Robin Williams. Teaching the students to challenge their own boxes (comfort zones) and to take intellectual risks, and role modeling what that means.
What are some of your greatest contributions to the College?
In many ways, my greatest contributions to HC, or at least two very important ones, have been serving students when I worked to get our judicial policies changed and advising pre-medical students for 25 years. I worked to make our administrative policies adhere to the mission, and to send students to medical school who not only had good grades, but whose personal values were consistent with the best of HC’s values.
Can you describe a time when your teaching and scholarship have complemented each other?
My teaching and scholarship came together when students prompted me to write my book, “An Introduction to the Old Testament: A Feminist Perspective.” The ideas really came from the students. It was published in 1988 and is still being sold.
Is there a “classic assignment” in any of your courses?
Having taught the Introduction to Old Testament course so often, it was necessary to vary the assignments (for my sanity), and to require the students to use their imaginations and creativity. I sometimes gave some version of this assignment: “Write a five-page essay on the following topic: ‘You are a contemporary prophet. What would you say to the people (determine the audience, e.g., Holy Cross students, your own parish, the American people) that you believe needs to be said.’”
lecturer of Spanish, class dean, with special responsibilities for ALANA and international students, international scholar and student advisor
All the photos with students, the plaques I received as class dean for the Classes of 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 and the various mementos that my international students have given me from their home countries.
What is something you always told your students?
I always told them that they belonged at Holy Cross, and that their various experiences, histories and backgrounds enriched our campus community. I also reminded them that their first step toward academic success was to “go to class!”
As a lover of Latin American literature, especially immigrant stories, I brought Carlos Eire to Holy Cross, both for the first-year reading of “Waiting for Snow in Havana” for the Class of 2010 and for the sophomore reading of “Learning to Die in Miami” for the Class of 2014. This was an opportunity to share my own Cuban immigrant experience with my students and introduce them to my colleague and friend, as well as the Cuban exile experience.
At the same time, students in the Advanced Spanish Composition and Conversation and Spanish Composition for Bilingual Students courses read a couple of chapters in class. It was a very meaningful way to bring together my teaching, my research and my own story.
associate professor of history
What do you see as some of the most exciting changes at Holy Cross over the course of your many years here?
While the number of tenure-track faculty members in the history department has remained constant during my 25-year career, its composition has changed dramatically. Whereas women made up only 15 percent of our numbers in 1991, they now constitute a majority. Similar strides have been made in hiring and retaining faculty of color. In addition to youthful energy, innovative approaches to teaching and original research agenda, these new faculty have brought expertise in fields of history that were underrepresented, or nonexistent, among our course offerings in the past. Similar developments are taking place in other departments, and the College is much richer as a result.
It is also gratifying to witness a corresponding diversification of the student body, especially with the addition of more students of color and a slow, but steady increase in the number of international students.
A large, fearsome, handmade dragon kite, complete with three-dimensional claws and a 10-foot-long tail, which followed me home from a trip to Bali and which has hovered directly over my office desk ever since. (No, I have never seen it fly, but who knows what happens when no one is looking?)
My final year as a tenured faculty member was not spent at Holy Cross. Rather, I took an unpaid sabbatical in 2015-2016, in order to serve full-time as director of the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies (KCJS), a study abroad program that operates in Japan and is administered by Columbia University. I enjoy the combination of administrative and teaching responsibilities, and I appreciate the opportunity it affords me to promote study abroad, on the one hand, and the study of Japanese language, history and culture on the other.
professor of English
What was your proudest scholarly moment?
One of my proudest moments was lecturing at the International Wordsworth Conference, which is held annually in the English Lake District. The conference was hosted, at the time, by Jonathan Wordsworth, a descendent of the Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, and it was by his invitation that I was invited to speak. Many 20-minute conference papers are delivered annually, and I have done those throughout my career, but the 60-minute lectures, one of which I gave, are reserved for more prominent scholars working on significant projects.
Can you describe a time when your teaching and scholarship complemented each other in an especially fruitful way?
One of the most famous shipwrecks in literary and British maritime history is the wreck of the Earl of Abergavenny, East Indiaman; the ship went down when its captain was John Wordsworth, William Wordsworth’s younger brother. Of 402 passengers, 246 perished when the Abergavenny sank in a night storm in 1805. Survivors reported that John Wordsworth drowned in suicidal despair at the loss of his ship, the loss of the fortune he had invested in cargo and the catastrophic loss of life.
While I was doing research for a book on the consequences of John’s death for his brother’s poetry, I came across a 6-foot by 6-foot scale model of the Abergavenny made by a model ship builder in England. I purchased and donated the model ship to the College, and it now sits in the Main Reading Room of Dinand. When I teach courses on Wordsworth, I hold a class in the library on the biographical relevance of the Abergavenny for Wordsworth’s poetry. The ship brings the poetry to “life” in a unique and memorable way.
My favorite course is a seminar on the English Romantic poets, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Wordsworth’s sister Dorothy Wordsworth, whose prose journals about their daily lives together provided material for his poetry. I enjoy teaching this seminar because students become deeply engaged in the poetry and the scholarship it continues to spawn, including their own scholarship in research essays of 20–25 pages. Nothing is more satisfying for me than seeing my students mature intellectually.
professor of anthropology and Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Society
My proudest moment was being able to spend academic year 2001-2002 on a fellowship as a member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., working on indigenous print literatures of Sumatra from late Dutch East Indies colonial times. My book, “Print, Poetics and Politics: A Sumatran Epic in the Colonial Indies and New Order Indonesia,” was one result.
Can you describe a time when your teaching and scholarship complemented each other?
Yes: a pedagogy I use in preparing Holy Cross students to succeed as museum docents for several of my Cantor Art Gallery exhibitions on Southeast Asian ceremonial textiles. Students who have taken my Art and Power in Asia course do well here. Several apply for Summer Mellon Fellowships to study the textiles with me on campus, in the gallery and in three weeks of fieldwork in Bali and Kuching, interacting with weavers, heritage brokers and nonprofit staff. Then, once the show opens on campus, they specialize in specific cloths or themes, to talk about them with museum visitors in gallery walk-through lectures.
This summer, four students and I will explore Borneo cloths together at Cantor and in Indonesia and Sarawak. They’ll then be docents for my fall 2016 Cantor exhibition, “Woven Power: Ritual Textiles of Sarawak and West Kalimantan.” Then: back to my work on Sumatran literature. And, renovating my kitchen!
director of the Office of Strategic Initiatives and Corporate and Foundation Relations, associate professor of psychology
What was your proudest moment at the College?
There are many moments, but developing a series of programs over the past 25 years that brought Holy Cross into closer ties with the City of Worcester are especially important to me — programs that engaged our students and faculty into partnership with the Worcester Public Schools. Most special to me was being co-founder, along with Fr. McFarland, of the Nativity School of Worcester. Miracles happen every day at this wonderful tuition-free middle school, and our “Nativity men” have gone on to great high schools and colleges, including three at Holy Cross.
I have been given strict instructions not to bring much from my office to our house, so I have really streamlined what remains. It has been a remarkable trip through time looking over 41 years of class notes, proposals and articles, and reminiscing about former students and colleagues, etc. I am taking home several small notes written to me by Fr. Brooks. It didn’t happen often, but when Fr. Brooks thought I did something especially well, he would simply write, “Good job Chick,” and sign it JEB, S.J. Those little notes were so motivating, and I treasure them from this great man who is a mentor and hero to me.
My son has purchased a building off of Main South in Worcester and is renovating it for art studios, etc. He asked me to become his building/business manager, and I am so excited to be working with him and helping to develop this project and the neighborhood.
My experience as shepherd of both the College’s science complex project and performing arts building project has given me experience working with architects, builders and the city. I hope we can soon have this become an exciting venue for Worcester’s creative people.
— Evangelia Stefanakos ’14 with Maura Sullivan Hill
This piece originally ran in the Summer 2016 issue of the Holy Cross Magazine.
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