As I sat down with Dr. Jack Doody of the Philosophy department, I was instantly struck by his vivacious, warm personality. As a previous director of the Honors Program, Interdisc professor, and current Robert M. Birmingham Chair in Humanities, Dr. Doody has a wealth of stories and experiences to share.
Dr. Doody’s career began as a Mathematics major at the University of LaSalle. Though his primary focus in college was mathematics, Dr. Doody was particularly fascinated in the philosophical quest. Upon announcing to his mother that he was planning to pursue a doctorate degree in Philosophy, she immediately urged him to reconsider and even recruited other family members in the process. Dr. Doody did not, of course, take this advice, and he went on to graduate from Notre Dame with a PhD in Philosophy.
Dr. Doody came to Villanova at a time when the university was much different from the campus that we know and love today. Large lecture classes of 120 people were standard, and the overall approach to learning was largely contrasted to the practices used today. Textbook use even in English courses was widespread, and primary source readings were sparse. It was Dr. Doody’s experience teaching Interdisc in the Honors Program that truly shook things up. Dr. Doody took individual, personalized experience as an Interdisc professor and compared it to courses throughout the rest of the University. How could every student experience that type of learning? It was here that the inspiration for the Augustine and Culture Seminar arose. Under a core-curriculum revision directed by Father Ellis in 1992, Dr. Doody proposed the idea for an Interdisc for the masses: a two-semester Humanities sequence for all students in the College of Arts and Sciences. The class would be smaller, more discussion based, and students would read primary source literature, most importantly Saint Augustine’s Confessions. Dr. Doody explained that this course was aimed at promoting a more personalized and academically enriching writing experience for all students through the study of the history of ideas and the comparison of different academic domains. The course was first implemented into the core of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1992, then the College of Nursing followed in 1993, then Engineering in 1995, and lastly the Villanova School of Business in 1997. Dr. Doody explained that the course gives freshmen students “a solid grounding in Villanova’s identity and in its theological and philosophical roots.”
Dr. Doody has a wealth of advice to offer both undergraduate students and alumni. He encourages students and alumni to take a breath from the daily, high stress routine and reflect on where they are academically and personally. He says, “Who you are personality wise, character wise and talent wise; those determine what will happen to you…you cannot micromanage your life.” Dr. Doody used himself as an example of this fact, as he started off as a Mathematics student and is now a Philosophy and Humanities professor. He continued to say that life is about the journey and the quest. Students often focus on their major or their résumé in a way that can be limiting. “You do not need to be in the Villanova School of Business to work on Wall Street; you can get there.” He explained to me that Villanova is home to some of extremely high caliber students and they’ve already done what they need to do. “They clearly have the motivation and the drive…and they’re in the right spot.”
Written by Newsletter Co-Editor, Margaret Shull, LAS '16. Margaret is receiving a degree in French and Francophone Studies and Honors, with a concentration in Ethics and Healthcare.