The faculty are the core of Centre College. Of all the College’s constituencies, they are the ones who are here the longest. It is they who nurture the culture of the place—the sense of common purpose, the collegiality and the passion and energy—and that they share so enthusiastically with their students. This spring, seven of our most venerable professors retired. Before moving on to new adventures, they took time to answer a few questions for our summer issue of Centrepiece.
I find the questions that drive my research—such as how did Judaism in Roman and Byzantine Palestine respond to Christian colonization—deeply engaging, and the archaeological field work I use to answer these questions exhilarating. I also find that this research trajectory provides insights into the long history of Jewish-Christian relations and so impacts the courses I teach and influences the way I think about and have interactions with those religious communities. Research and writing for the academy—and being able to participate at the highest level possible in the conversations about Judaism and Christianity in the ancient world—are the most enjoyable aspects of being an academic.
I have been going to Israel for 37 years. I have a deep interest in the history and ongoing presence of Palestinian Christians in Israel. It is where my archaeological field work is located, and, as I continue to be the director of the excavations at Khirbet Qana (Cana of Galilee), I will continue to be a frequent visitor to the Holy Land.
Teaching religious studies is a privilege. It connects me with my students at both the intellectual and existential/spiritual levels.
My most cherished classes are the Holocaust course and the religion senior seminar. The Holocaust course is a vital extension of my deep interest in Jewish-Christian relations. I have also found that the course gives me an opportunity to explore with the students other critical and thought-provoking issues, such as altruism, representation of radical evil in film and fiction, and the commercialization and politicization of the Holocaust. In the senior seminar, the readings we impose on ourselves and the students have produced discussions that are always intense, sometimes contentious, and without fail gratifying.
I have been fortunate to receive several fellowships (e.g., N.E.H. Fellowship at the Albright Institute for Archaeological Research), grants (e.g., White-Levy Foundation Grant for archaeological publications), and appointments (e.g., Malone Fellow for U.S.-Arab relations) that I take as acknowledgement of my contributions to the academy. I have also been fortunate to receive teaching awards, including Centre’s Kirk Teaching Award and the Carnegie Foundation/Council for Advancement and Support of Education Kentucky Professor of the Year award. These awards were truly meaningful in terms of my efforts to be an effective teacher of undergraduates at Centre College.
by Tom McCollough