Noted Catholic Philosopher Takes Post at Baptist University

February 21, 2016

Alistair Linford
John Haldane
Across Doctrinal Borders

As one of the world’s leading Roman Catholic philosophers, John Haldane might seem an unlikely addition to the faculty of Baylor University, a Baptist-affiliated institution in Waco, Tex.

In the fall Mr. Haldane, an adviser to popes and a frequent print and broadcast commentator on social issues in Britain, became the first holder of the J. Newton Rayzor Sr. Distinguished Chair in Philosophy at Baylor.

He professes to be undaunted, saying he values Baylor as an exception to a "secularization, or desacralization" of American religious universities, and as an institution that, nonetheless, "is quite open and wants to be part of a larger conversation about the future of higher education."

Mr. Haldane has crossed doctrinal borders before. When he began teaching at the University of St Andrews, in Scotland, more than 30 years ago, the Jesuit-educated scholar, whose paternal grandfather was an anti-Catholic Presbyterian, became the country’s first declared Catholic professor of philosophy since the Reformation.

Mr. Haldane became known for pioneering the school of Analytical Thomism, which applies philosophical analysis to the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, a pivotal 13th-century thinker.

His teaching at St Andrews has been intermingled with frequent short appointments around the world. He says he almost turned down Baylor’s invitation to take up the new chair because his schedule is perpetually full.

In the next few months, he will undertake lectureships in Birmingham, England, and in Sydney, Australia. He remains chairman of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. Between Baylor semesters, he will continue to teach at St Andrews, where, for 25 years, he directed the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs.

Helping to sway Mr. Haldane to take the Baylor position, he says, was that on many trips to the United States, he has found that academics and public intellectuals "don’t just keep within their narrow specialism, so you have a much wider-ranging intellectual conversation" than in Britain, which he believes many Americans rather romanticize.

American artistic life appeals to him, too. As an undergraduate, in London, he originally trained as an artist. That was before he found his way to Aquinas and wrote books in such areas as metaphysics, the history of philosophy, and moral and social philosophy.

At Baylor, he says, he will try to catch up with tasks that have gotten away from him. He wishes, for example, to prepare for publication his prominent lecture series at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford and in Scotland on such topics as personhood, the mind, and religion.

He also wishes, while in Waco, to develop the notion that when it comes to difficult public contentions, "we are more likely to make prog­ress by recognizing the difficulty, but we’re also more likely to avoid the kind of corrosion and separation that’s going on if we extend the hand of civic friendship." — Peter Monaghan

Fish Tales

360 Degree Films
Danielle L. Dixson
Like most scientists, Danielle L. Dixson spends much of her time doing research, writing journal articles, and applying for grants. But in her spare time, she engages a less academic audience: young children, the kind who readThe Very Hungry Caterpillar before bedtime.

Ms. Dixson, an assistant professor of marine science and policy at the University of Delaware, has written nine children’s stories — nearly all of them based on scientific articles she has written on topics like ocean acidification, algae growth, and the ability of fish to "smell" their way home. She is working with the university’s art-and-design department and early-childhood-education program to turn the stories into published books.

Her unconventional side proj­ect began when, as a postgraduate researcher in Fiji, she tried to explain her work studying fish behavior to the local villagers. She needed something that would catch the attention of the kids there, so she wrote stories for them about, for example, sharks getting stomachaches from eating garbage tossed in the ocean. "The children’s books seemed to help them understand why I was there and why it mattered," she says.

Back in the United States, she has continued writing the stories and has used the practice as a teaching tool, even once assigning her students to write their own children’s stories based on articles in scientific journals. "You have to really understand your topic to be able to translate it into something a 7-year-old can understand," she says.

The proc­ess isn’t just about simplifying the material. Ms. Dixson says she wants her lab students, who all help write the stories, to develop the skills to describe their work to anyone clearly: "Being able to discuss this helps the research get out to the right people."

Whether those "right people" are politicians — she spoke last year at a White House briefing on ocean acidification — or small children, her hope, she says, is that the eventual books will help create a generation of people who understand how they can help protect the ocean.

— Jenny Rogers

Will Kirk
David W. Andrews
Innovating in Teacher Ed

David W. Andrews, the first person in his family to earn a college degree, is about to take a major step in his quest to help others who "got a late start, or no start, or had some type of roadblock in their progress."

Mr. Andrews, dean of the School of Education at the Johns Hopkins University, will take over in April as president of National University, California’s second-largest private nonprofit institution of higher education. The rapidly expanding but still comparatively obscure institution of more than 17,000 students, most of them working adults, is the flagship campus of a system of more than two dozen sites in California, Nevada, Washington, and other states, most of which offer online instruction only.

He plans to bring approaches that have worked at Hopkins to National’s graduate programs in teacher training and other fields.

When he arrived to lead the Hopkins School of Education, in 2010, no course enrollments were online; now, 60 percent are, and that figure is growing. "Five years ago, you couldn’t get people to talk about it," says Mr. Andrews. "Now it’s a major portion of our revenue stream."

The school’s innovations include taking a key role in a new, technology-intensive grade school in a poor area of Baltimore.

National University, founded in 1971, "is new enough, and nontraditional enough, and has the right mission and aspirations to take advantage of where the technology and pedagogy are going," Mr. Andrews says.

When considering the presidency there, he says, he sought and received two assurances. First, that, while National has some of the trappings of a for-profit institution, it upholds the educational values of a nonprofit. Second, that trustees there welcome Hopkins-like approaches, and that so does Michael R. Cunningham, who since 2013 has served as both chancellor of the university system and president of its main campus. Mr. Cunningham will retain his role as chancellor.

Online delivery of courses has matured to the point of "being able to deliver on the promise of greater access and affordability," says Mr. Andrews. Offering such access to "populations that might not have had many opportunities," he says, is what drives him. —Peter Monaghan

Leader for Liberal Arts

Troy D. Paino, president of Truman State University, in Missouri, will be the next president of the University of Mary Washington, a public liberal-arts institution in Virginia. On July 1, he will succeed Richard V. Hurley, who is retiring.

Mr. Paino has a Ph.D. in American studies from Michigan State University and a juris doctorate from Indiana University. His scholarly interests include American higher education, 20th-century social history, and the history of American sports. — Ruth Hammond

Obituary: Explorer of Voices

Ralph E. Hoffman, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine who did research into the brain abnormalities involved in auditory hallucinations, died on February 1 after a yearlong illness. He was 66.

Auditory hallucinations, or false perceptions of hearing voices, are a treatment-resistant symptom of schizophrenia. In 1987, Dr. Hoffman and a colleague published a paper that linked certain processes in the developing adolescent brain to the onset of schizophrenia. He then devised a way to treat the hallucinations with transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Dr. Hoffman studied mathematics at Brown University before earning his medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1976 and completing a psychiatry residency at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York in 1979. He then began working at Yale, where he served in administrative roles along with maintaining his research agenda and a clinical practice.

John H. Krystal, chair of Yale’s department of psychiatry, wrote in a tribute that Dr. Hoffman had been motivated to pursue his work by his interest in language, his skills in mathematics, a rare gift for research design, and great empathy for patients.— Peter Monaghan

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