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Donors Endow Philosophy Scholarship in St. John Henry Newman’s Name
“This is the first time we’ve had a scholarship in honor of a great Catholic intellectual — and now, within the last year, saint,” said President Thomas S. Hibbs, Ph.D., BA ’82 MA ’83, by way of introducing the St. John Henry Newman Scholarship in Philosophy recently endowed by alumnus Matthew Hejduk, MA '98 PhD '06, and his wife, Julia Hejduk, Ph.D. Julia was a colleague of Hibbs during his time at Baylor University, where she teaches in the Classics Department.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate one of the leading modern Catholic intellectuals, who mediated the entire tradition to the modern world. St. John Henry Newman speaks from the depth of tradition in a way that seems remarkably contemporary and alive to us today,” said Hibbs at a recent ceremony to commemorate the Hejduks’ gift. 

In the Hejduks themselves, you might find this combination of the contemporary and the traditional. Hibbs noted that Matthew Hejduk is an actual rocket scientist in addition to having a doctorate in philosophy, while Julia Hejduk is a Latin scholar. Julia Hejduk is also a leader in the prolife movement, often finding herself in conversation with those on the other side. 

“She is eager to engage with people who might not agree in a way that draws them out in a civil manner and sets an example for what we could do a lot better in our culture, particularly our political culture in this moment,” said Hibbs — an endeavor of which Newman doubtless would have approved.

“I am on many levels grateful to the two of you: for establishing this scholarship, for the friendship we’ve had over the years, for your commitment to the university that I think formed you intellectually in important ways, and for your explicit intention to honor St. John Henry Newman,” said Hibbs, sharing a hymn of Newman’s:

Lead, kindly Light, amid th’ encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on;
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
Lead Thou me on;
I loved the garish day, and spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will; remember not past years.

So long Thy pow’r has blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

“Thank you all for what you’re offering future philosophy students at the University of Dallas, and thank you for giving us the opportunity to celebrate the life, thought and wisdom of St. John Henry Newman,” added Hibbs.

“There are two ways in which Newman made contributions to philosophy,” said Provost Jonathan J. Sanford, Ph.D. “First, the more general way with which we’re probably all more familiar: In Idea of a University, he names that science of sciences that unifies the different disciplines — philosophy. In one way, this scholarship recognizes that role that philosophy plays within the structure of the university itself; philosophy in this sense is in service to the other disciplines and in service to their distinctive focus. 

“Newman also was a great philosopher in the more specialized sense,” continued Sanford. “An overlooked contribution of Newman’s to philosophy is his Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, a remarkable work that brings into special focus the relationship we can have with objects of knowledge that is doing justice to their individuality in ways that we often overlook. It is fitting that this scholarship be named in Newman’s honor because of his contributions to this specialized discipline of philosophy.”

Sanford noted that the scholarship specifically will benefit students of the Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts, whose original vision was to “educate the educators, those who will be dedicating themselves to the continuation of the tradition of which Newman himself is such a vital part.

“Thank you for the many ways in which you’re perpetuating the study of philosophy at UD, and with a namesake so fitting to the work we’re striving to do,” he added to the Hejduks.

Professor and Chair of Philosophy Chad Engelland, Ph.D., drew upon Plato to reflect on the significance of the Hedjuks’ gift by asking, “Why in Plato’s Republic does the philosopher return to the cave in order to liberate other would-be philosophers? Why not spend all of one’s time contemplating the good? Why teach versus contemplating the good, when teaching might lead to death?

“Now, when we think of going down into the cave and the turning about of the soul from shadows to light, we might think about the teacher and the student as sufficient for this liberation …  but there is a medieval adage: First live, then philosophize,” he said. “It takes no great philosophical talent to understand that grad students need money to support themselves as the condition for the possibility of their being able to philosophize. Each of us blessed enough to be able to study philosophy on the doctoral level did so thanks to donors and visionaries who regarded the good sought as one that should be shared despite the personal sacrifice involved, yet most of us never knew the identities of our benefactors. As I consider the generations of grad students, decades in the future, who will be helped by this scholarship, I’ve been struck that very likely they won’t know who’s opened up this possibility for them. 

“What then is my role on this occasion?” he asked. “I think it is this one: On behalf of all those future students, let me say sincerely thank you for opening this possibility for us, this possibility of studying philosophy. I’ll close by making an observation in the fashion of St. John Henry Newman. He was asked on one occasion, very famously, ‘What do you think of the laity?’ He responded, ‘The Church would look foolish without them.’ On behalf of the Philosophy Department, I’d like to thank you for helping our students study philosophy with us. After all, we’d surely look foolish without them.”

Matthew Hejduk, reflecting on the reasons that promoted the endowment, said, “I wanted to give back to the university that gave so much to me, and was instrumental in my intellectual and moral formation, and ultimately in turning me into an educated man. Graduate school requires singularity of focus to do well; one cannot be unduly distracted with the small matters of feeding oneself and clothing oneself and sheltering oneself. So it’s my hope that this scholarship will help in some small amount to make it less difficult for graduate students in the future to put some of those issues aside and regain some of that singularity of focus.”

He also hopes that naming the scholarship for Newman will serve to encourage others to contribute to it as well. This particular namesake was Julia’s idea. 

“Her suggestion was inspired and perhaps prophetic,” said Hejduk. “John Henry Newman was one of the great philosophic minds of the 19th century. One almost cannot enumerate all the good and exemplary things that flow from him and his thought. His body of preserved sermons is full of remarkable insights … and his pastoral engagement, despite his academic orientation, is well attested. So it’s really my great honor today to be able to honor an individual such as John Henry Newman and hope that this scholarship may continue to work to perpetuate that honor. St. John Henry Newman, pray for us.” 

This scholarship will support a philosophy doctoral student in the Institute of Philosophic Studies

To learn more about establishing your own endowed scholarship or contributing to an existing scholarship, please contact Assistant Vice President for Development Kris Muñoz Vetter at kmunozvetter@udallas.edu. To learn more, visit our endowed scholarships page.

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Oct 28, 2020

“She was a very JOYFUL person, and still smiling the last time I saw her, at John Alvis’ funeral here at UD, because she had just received her leg prosthesis and hoped to walk again after a...

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Tests conducted: 78 students, six staff and one guest priest. Of the 26 COVID-positive students reported on Oct. 13, all 26 tested negative and are now recovered. Of the three COVID-positive...

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