When the three children of legendary University of Dallas Professor of English John E. Alvis, BA ’66 MA ’69 PhD ’73, considered how to honor and perpetuate their father’s legacy at UD, they knew it would need to involve the Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts Institute of Philosophic Studies, to which Alvis had been devoted. Alvis passed away on Dec. 23, 2019, at age 75, less than two weeks after the passing of his wife, Sara Kathleen, MA ’71, to whom he was married for more than 50 years. The late Alvises left behind John D. Alvis, Ph.D., BA ’95 MA ’97, his wife, Megan (Healy) Alvis, BA ’97, Sarah R. (Alvis) Godinez, BA ’99, Sarah’s husband, Victor Godinez, BA ’99, and Catherine F. Alvis, BA ’05, as well as eight grandchildren, one of whom, Patrick Alvis, recently graduated in UD’s Class of 2022 – not to mention a powerful heritage at UD, where John E. Alvis taught for 50 years.
John E. arrived at the university as a freshman in 1962 and never left. While he was an alumnus of both Braniff and the undergraduate Constantin College of Liberal Arts and taught classes for both, he was especially dedicated to the uncommon curriculum of Braniff both for its liberal arts and its Catholic aspects. “The unique nature of intellectual life of the college was his particular devotion,” explained John D. Alvis. Because of this, the Dr. John E. Alvis Memorial IPS Fellowship Fund will “help to establish future professors who share that devotion that he particularly cherished.”
John D., who is an associate professor of government at Wofford College in South Carolina, said, “Higher education is desperate for more well-rounded scholars and people with a serious liberal arts education. UD has one of very few graduate programs that still offer this kind of intellectual, serious liberal arts education; Dallas can therefore serve a unique position in higher ed by providing more professors educated in that way.”
UD’s graduate liberal arts program has always been challenging for the university to maintain because UD is smaller than most universities that would have a program of that caliber.
“It’s a huge challenge,” emphasized John D. “Yet my father believed in maintaining the program precisely because of the contribution UD could make to providing professors in higher education; there are not very many universities that can produce that type of student or faculty.”
John’s D.’s son Patrick is now a UD alumnus as well, following in the family tradition, and his other children are looking either at UD for college or at universities with a high number of UD alumni on the faculty. John D. believes that the importance of a UD education for him and his wife, sisters and brothers-in-law lies in “the range of knowledge that we acquired by studying there. The breadth of reading both helps us a great deal in forming practical daily judgments but also in understanding the world in a deeper way. Without that kind of serious education – which looks up to higher things verus down at ourselves – it would be hard to live an examined life.”
He added, “For me, working in the academic world, people seem to see things in very narrow, conventional ways, and I really cherish my education at Dallas that allows me to see beyond conventional training and the narrow, conventional opinions other academics have. Dallas really taught me the integrated nature of all learning. In modern academia, people tend to be narrow specialists – they don’t see the relationships between disciplines. UD believes in an understanding of how learning fits together as a whole, which is an extremely rare perspective of intellectual life.”
This is exactly how John E. Alvis viewed UD’s education as well. “He regarded the education at UD as different from any other place,” said John D. “Rather than focusing on what is trendy or ideologically correct, UD focuses on the philosophical education at the root of everything, devotion to truth regardless of political correctness or new-vogue trendiness – it’s a serious education for all times. My father thought you simply could not find this type of education at any other university. Also, regardless of any differences among faculty, at UD they all share that vision of academic life and a rigorous devotion to pursuing truth. My father believed UD was the one place where you could have a serious exchange of ideas, where pursuing the philosophical life was the most important thing.”
He accentuated, “Myself having taught in other colleges, I can tell you it’s true. There’s no place like UD, no place where you have the kind of intellectual freedom you have at UD. It’s really odd; other universities give lip service to intellectual freedom but they don’t walk the walk – it’s not even so much politics as that they just don’t take the intellectual life seriously; they’re not serious intellectuals anymore. UD is unique in that it’s still devoted to that.
“In terms of my father’s devotion and affection to school,we regard this scholarship as a very small gift in comparison to how loyal he was to UD,” concluded John D. “He started there as an undergraduate and never left; he was there for well over 50 years and really never imagined being anywhere else. We’re very happy to be able to do something to honor his legacy, but it’s far short of the devotion he had to the school.”
To learn more about John E. Alvis' legacy at the University of Dallas and contribute to the Dr. John E. Alvis Memorial IPS Fellowship Fund please visit: advancement.udallas.edu/donate and indicate the Alvis Fund in the comment field.