With the end of the academic year comes the departure of three faculty members who announced their retirement: John Cull, professor of Spanish; Rev. Thomas Worcester, S.J., professor of history; and Suzanne Kirschner, professor of psychology. The three faculty members have made significant contributions to the College and their fields, and have impacted countless students in their classrooms and beyond.
Cull joined the Spanish department in 1985. He is a renowned expert in Golden Age Spanish literature, having co-edited 11 volumes, including the book collection “Medio Maravedí” (UIB & José J. de Olañeta, 2006-present). At Holy Cross, Cull taught all levels of Spanish and upper-level seminars on topics including “Don Quixote,” and served as the director of graduate studies for several years.
What is your favorite course to teach?
Without doubt, “Don Quixote.” It is a challenging novel to teach because it always defies student expectations and its language is difficult and foreign even for native speakers of Spanish. My approach to teaching the course has evolved considerably since I first offered it over 30 years ago. My initial expectations to gauge student understanding of the novel was to require a traditional research paper with secondary sources, but this rarely proved satisfactory to me or the students.
In the next phase of the course, I offered students the choice of producing a research term paper or engaging the text in a creative way, individually or in groups, and then reflecting critically on what they had learned. I have kept most of these projects as enduring mementos of an assignment that produced results far beyond my wildest hopes and expectations.
My final phase of teaching “Don Quixote” came about as a consequence of attending a summer seminar hosted by the librarians of Holy Cross and the Worcester Art Museum. In my last two offerings of the novel, the final project involved the students pairing off and choosing a work of art on display at the museum in order to make a comparison between it and some of the themes we had discussed in class. At the end of the course, we visited the museum as a class so each pair could lead the class to the piece they chose, give a brief history of it and explain how they connect it to the novel. In their reflection papers on this experience, students always expressed surprise at how a comparison of the visual and the verbal helped them better understand the relationship between art and literature.
Where is your favorite spot on campus?
When I teach elementary or intermediate Spanish and we are practicing vocabulary related to families and relationships, I often surprise students by asking them if they take their dates to the campus cemetery to visit with the deceased Jesuits. This is unquestionably odd, I know, but the cemetery is my favorite place on campus. It is a space for peaceful reflection, a reminder of the transitory nature of all things human, and an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of a Jesuit education and the invaluable contributions of the men who are laid to rest there.
Fr. Worcester joined the history department in 1994 and taught a range of courses in European history. He has made major contributions to the field of early modern European religious history, including editing “The Cambridge Companion to the Jesuits and the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Jesuits” (Cambridge University Press, 2017). Fr. Worcester has been serving as the president of Regis College, the Jesuit Faculty of Theology at the University of Toronto, since 2017.
The Papacy in the Modern World, which is about how the papacy has changed from the time of Michelangelo to today; and Historian’s Craft, which explores why/how to be a historian, and why it matters.
What was your proudest scholarly moment?
A very favorable 2005 New York Times review of “Hope and Healing: Painting in Italy in a Time of Plague, 1500-1800,” an exhibition at Worcester Art Museum for which I was a co-curator.
What is something you always told your students?
There is no definitive history of anything: New times and places elicit new questions and new methods of doing history …
Can you describe a time when your teaching and scholarship complemented each other in an especially fruitful way?
Planning and editing the “Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Jesuits, 2011 to 2017,” while also teaching various courses on Jesuit history.
I am serving as the president of Regis College, the Jesuit School of Theology in Canada, part of an ecumenical consortium of seven theology faculties in Toronto, and an affiliate of the University of Toronto. I am also a professor of church history at Regis and I will teach at least one graduate course each year in addition to my administrative duties.
Kirschner joined the psychology department in 1996 and conducts research in the fields of the history and philosophy of psychology, cultural psychology and theories of personality. A highly respected scholar in her field, Kirschner has published a range of works, including “The Religious and Romantic Origins of Psychoanalysis” (Cambridge University Press, 1996). She will be assuming the role as president-elect of the Society of Qualitative Inquiry in Psychology after retiring.
Written by Evangelia Stefanakos ’14 for the Summer 2018 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.
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