President’s Message: Recalling an Inspiring Professor

March 30, 2012
President Linnane

If you attend Loyola athletic events, you may have seen me cheering on our Greyhounds and assume I have been a lifelong sports fan. That is far from the truth. It is absolutely fair to say that I’ve witnessed more sporting competitions in the past five years than in the previous 50 combined.

I do believe, however, that a healthy, exciting intercollegiate athletics program can be immensely valuable—not just for the talented young student-athletes competing in it, but for the fellow students who cheer for them, for the faculty and staff who support them, and for the community that surrounds them.

The Greyhounds men’s basketball team’s Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference triumph and trip to the NCAA Tournament this spring provide ample evidence of the unqualified joy intercollegiate athletics can bring to a university and a city. Our tournament run did not last long, but the excitement, pride, and belief in not just the team, but in all that Loyola represents, will live on well beyond this season.

You may also assume that, when I was in college, I planned to study theology. In fact, as a student at Boston College, I declared a major in political science.

My plans began to change the fall of my senior year, when I took Foundations of Catholic Theology with Rev. Harvey Egan, S.J.

Fr. Egan was eloquent, engaging, and brilliant. He was one of a very few American theologians to do doctoral work directly with Karl Rahner, a German Jesuit considered one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century. Fr. Egan’s class was eye-opening, especially for me as I was thinking through the process of becoming a Jesuit.

At a very key time in my life, Fr. Egan and his class drew me into a more adult understanding of my faith and the intellectual rigor that could be involved in exploring it. This was thought-provoking, challenging work. This asked you to truly consider and understand the concept of revelation, to truly understand Scripture as the Word of God.

And I loved it. I loved the class. I loved the challenge. I loved learning from Fr. Egan. And my life was forever changed.

I am far from alone in this experience. I speak with Loyola students every day who make a point of telling me how a professor has altered the way they see the world, their ideas about their talents and the best ways to use them, and their plans for the paths their lives will take once they graduate. They’re excited, they’re engaged, and occasionally they’re a little anxious about the unanticipated changes in direction.

And that’s a good thing. Our professors are extraordinary people and remarkably accomplished scholars. They are among the nation’s leaders in their fields. And they are here at Loyola because nothing excites or inspires them more than seeing a young student’s mind come alive with the questions and debates that have captured their intellects and imaginations throughout their careers.

We believe in this approach to teaching and learning. It’s why our classes are small. It’s why we encourage faculty to reach out to our students and build relationships with them. It’s why we sought the Clare Boothe Luce Program grant that allowed us to add two emerging women faculty in the sciences. It’s why the Jesuit Community committed almost $2 million to fund the creation of a visiting Jesuit Chair. And it’s why faculty recruitment, retention, and development is a key component of our strategic plan and will be essential to achieving our goal of becoming the nation’s leading Catholic, comprehensive university.

But I don’t need to tell you this, of course. Most of you are Loyola graduates and have your own rich memories of your time on this campus and the professors who helped shape it. Perhaps you’ll recall a few of those highlighted in this issue—or you’ll  realize we’ve overlooked your favorite and share your story in a letter to this magazine, or, even better, to the actual professor.

I doubt Fr. Egan realizes the impact his class had on my life, both personally and professionally. I’ve seen him perhaps 10 times  since I graduated, and he’s now retired. It’s been a few years since I’ve been in the classroom, and I know how it makes me feel when I run into a former student who tells me my class made a difference in his or her life.

As for me, I’ll be sure to mail a copy of this letter to Fr. Egan.

The Reverend Brian F. Linnane, S.J.

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