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Mount Offers Alumni Symposium at Frederick Campus

College of Liberal Arts Staff

alumni symposium feature

Mount alumni may occasionally wonder, “What would it be like to be back in a Mount classroom today?” Over the past five months, a group of nine Mount alumni and two of their spouses were able to find out when they sampled what the Mount offers its students in the first College of Liberal Arts Alumni Symposium. Organized by John-Paul Heil, C'15, adjunct professor of history and soon-to-be Fulbright Fellow, the Alumni Symposium met monthly from 6 to 8 p.m. in a hybrid model at the Mount’s conveniently located Frederick campus and on Zoom. Face-to-face participants enjoyed a physically distanced dinner prior to discussing the evening’s readings in one of the state-of-the-art Frederick classrooms. The impetus for this non-credit course came from Donald Briggs, S'05, Emmitsburg mayor and member of the Mount’s College of Liberal Arts Advisory Board, who experienced something similar offered by another Maryland university.

alumni-symposium-in-text.jpgThis Symposium, however, had a decidedly Mount flavor, centered on the question: “What is the coherent world vision articulated by the Catholic Church?” Using literature, philosophical texts and Church documents, the class explored how this vision is founded on assumptions about the nature of reality, the human person, how humans should and should not act, and how lay Catholics and Catholic universities should respond. Heil carefully chose Mount faculty members from across the liberal arts and sciences to lead each class and facilitate conversations between Symposium participants. Texts included Josef Pieper’s "Leisure: The Basis of Culture," St. John Paul II’s "Fides et Ratio," Graham Greene’s "The Power and the Glory," Walter Miller’s "A Canticle for Leibowitz," as well as selections from Boccaccio’s "The Decameron" and Alasdair MacIntyre’s "After Virtue." Discussion leaders were Heil, Professor of Philosophy Joshua Hochschild, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor of Chemistry Isaac Mills and Lecturer of Philosophy Stephen McGinley and Adjunct Professor of English Mary Johnson.

Participants enjoyed the engaging texts and in-depth discussions. Mount Trustee Raphael Della Ratta, C'92,called the Symposium “a unique opportunity to connect with fellow alumni from different eras and discuss topics and issues bringing their own Mount experience to the discussion.” David McGinley, C’11, agreed, saying the “lively discussion helped us grow in knowledge of the truth and in relation to each other.” His wife, Allison McGinley, C’14, said it was “great to challenge my mind again in that way and to engage in a discussion with fellow alumni....It brought back some of my favorite academic memories.”

Joseph Baldacchino, C’70, said the seminar reminded him “of the reasons I gained so much from a Mount education 50 years ago” because it “addressed central issues about how we should live our lives at the highest level by participating in the transcendent.” Katherine Marshall, C’77, described the seminar as an “enjoyable and enlightening educational journey,” finding that the “variety and scope of the readings, classroom presentations and discussions combined to make it an outstanding experience!”

The wide-ranging conversations included relevant personal anecdotes, but several recurring themes emerged. Among them were the benefits of living a contemplative life in a world often obsessed with material values, the need to express gratitude for the many gifts all of us have received, the persistence of the Catholic Church through periods of crisis, and the important interaction of faith and reason in the Catholic intellectual tradition. Della Ratta tied these themes together when he said, “The seminar exposed us to readings and ideas that support the Mount’s Catholic ideals and apply to our post-Mount lives.”

The first Alumni Symposium was primarily directed to the College of Liberal Arts Advisory Board, but the Mount is considering the offering of similar non-credit courses to all alumni. Interested alumni are welcome to contact Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Peter Dorsey, Ph.D., at

College of Liberal Arts Staff