Week 1: Contemporary Relevance of "The Idea of a University"

Week 1: Contemporary Relevance of

The view taken of a University in these Discourses is the following:—That it is a place of teaching universal knowledge. This implies that its object is, on the one hand, intellectual, not moral; and, on the other, that it is the diffusion and extension of knowledge rather than the advancement. If its object were scientific and philosophical discovery, I do not see why a University should have students; if religious training, I do not see how it can be the seat of literature and science.

- St. John Henry Newman (Preface, The Idea of a University)

This is how John Henry Newman began his first public discourse on educational theory from University Church on St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin, where the Notre Dame - Newman Centre for Faith and Reason operates today. This week we will explore the contemporary relevance of Newman’s philosophy as established in The Idea of a University, a two-volume collection of Newman’s public lectures, published essays, and private writings that evolved from that first lecture in 1852 until his death in 1890. We begin our conversation by asking, how is Newman’s work still relevant to the challenges faced in education today, some 150 years on? Our faculty hosts will be joined in answering that question during this week’s live session by Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, Mary Katherine Tillman, Professor Emerita in the Program of Liberal Studies at Notre Dame, and Adam Kronk, Head of School at La Lumiere.

View the Event

Presented by Rev. Gary S. Chamberland, C.S.C. and Kevin Whelan

Watch the recording from Wednesday, October 7, at 1 p.m. EDT below. Register to receive information about how to join future live events.

Welcome Address from Rev. Gerard J. Olinger, C.S.C., Vice President for Mission Engagement and Church Affairs

Presented by Rev. Gerard J. Olinger, C.S.C.

Rev. Gerard J. Olinger, C.S.C., serves as Vice President for Mission Engagement and Church Affairs at the University of Notre Dame, a role he began in August of 2018.  In this position, Fr. Olinger stewards and deepens Notre Dame’s Catholic and Holy Cross mission and is the University’s liaison to the Congregation of Holy Cross, the U.S. Bishops, the USCCB and its affiliates, and the Holy See. He also oversees the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem, the Notre Dame-Newman Centre for Faith and Reason in Dublin, and the Grotto Network.

Fr. Olinger welcomes participants to the “Thinking with Newman: Educating with Intention Today” series.

Meet our Faculty Hosts

Presented by Rev. Gary S. Chamberland, C.S.C. and Kevin Whelan

Rev. Gary Chamberland, C.S.C., is the newly appointed Director of the Notre Dame – Newman Centre for Faith and Reason. Fr. Gary was ordained a Holy Cross priest in 1998 and has taught canon law and theology at the University of Portland and the University of Notre Dame. Fr. Gary has also served as the University of Portland Director of Campus Ministry, Director of the Notre Dame Master of Divinity Program, Rector of Zahm (House), and Keenan Hall on Notre Dame’s campus, and Director of Residential Life at Notre Dame.

Kevin Whelan was named the inaugural Michael Smurfit Director of the Notre Dame Dublin Global Gateway in 1998. Over the last 22 years, Kevin has taught more than 3,000 Notre Dame students classes in Irish history, geography, and culture. While Kevin has lectured all over the world, his favorite lectures are to the visiting Notre Dame students, some of which take place in the heart of Belfast, the beaches of Kerry, the bogs of Longford, or even the top of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holiest mountain. 


Presented by Rev. Gary S. Chamberland, C.S.C. and Kevin Whelan

Join us this week as we begin “Thinking with Newman” by reading Newman’s Preface to “The Idea of a University” and a helpful summary of the entire work by Michael Lanford.

We will also be reading excerpts from Mary Katherine Tillman’s chapter, What, Then, Does Dr. Newman Mean?: The Vision and the Views, in “The Challenge and Promise of a Catholic University” (1994) by Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., University of Notre Dame President Emeritus. Professor Tillman is a world-renowned Newman scholar. We are honored to have her join our live conversation, Wednesday, October 7th, where you can ask her questions about her work.

Starting the Conversation

Presented by Notre Dame - Newman Centre for Faith and Reason

Kevin introduces one of the foundational tenets of Newman’s philosophy—the nature of knowledge in its relationship to wisdom—from Newman’s University Church, dedicated to Our Lady Seat of Wisdom. He poses some of the questions that will guide our conversations, the most pressing of which is, “Is it possible to have a University in a purely online setting?”

Understanding "The Idea" in Context

Presented by Rev. Gary S. Chamberland, C.S.C. and Kevin Whelan

Fr. Gary and Kevin discuss the basics of Newman’s theories of university, education, and formation, as found in the Preface to “The Idea of a University.” They contextualize his theories to 1850s Ireland and Great Britain in which Newman was writing, to 1960s Notre Dame as the University was beginning to reimagine its purpose and potential under the leadership of Father Ted Hesburgh, C.S.C., and, crucially, to the universities of today as they continue to educate in the midst of a global pandemic.

This Week's Guests

Presented by Rev. Gary S. Chamberland, C.S.C. and Kevin Whelan

Our hosts will be joined in conversation by:

Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin was appointed Archbishop of Dublin in 2004. Archbishop Martin studied philosophy at University College Dublin, theology at the Dublin Diocesan Seminary, and moral theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome. In 2016, Archbishop Martin invited University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. to take stewardship of Newman Church. “I see the establishment of the Notre Dame–Newman Centre for Faith and Reason as an opportunity for University Church to return to its original vocation as a focal point for reflection on faith and reason,” said the Archbishop at the Centre’s launch in 2016. “Dublin can take a new lead in today’s changed social context in something which is part of the rich heritage of Newman’s presence in Dublin. I appreciate especially that the centre will not be just an intellectual debating center, but will also work in the formation of an active and committed faith community of young professionals.”  If you would like to learn more about the state of the Catholic Church and the context of Catholic education in Ireland, check out Archbishop Martin’s 2011 address to the University of Cambridge Group for Irish Studies here.

Mary Katherine Tillman is Professor Emerita in the Program of Liberal Studies, the University of Notre Dame’s Great Books Program, in which she has taught since 1973. She has taught and lectured in academic venues nationally and internationally, has been published in academic journals, scholarly books, and electronic publications, and has authored books and monographs primarily on the thought of St. John Henry Cardinal Newman with particular interest in his educational theory and his views on the faith/reason relation. Professor Tillman is board member emerita of the Newman Association of America, is a member of the editorial board of the National Institute for Newman Studies and currently mentors graduate students studying and writing on Newman. She has been named, by the National Institute for Newman Studies, the winner of the 2019 Gailliot Award for Lifetime Achievement in Newman Studies.

Adam Kronk is the Head of School at La Lumiere, an independent, Catholic, co-educational boarding and day secondary school in La Porte, Indiana. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Master of Nonprofit Administration degrees from the University of Notre Dame. After undergrad, Adam worked as the Director of Campus Ministry Outreach in Europe, ministering to study abroad students throughout Notre Dame’s European Centers and Gateways. Before La Lumiere, Adam led the Notre Dame Deloitte Center for Ethical Leadership in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, where he also taught ethics and values-based leadership in the Management Department.

The Four Main Points

Presented by Rev. Gary S. Chamberland, C.S.C. and Kevin Whelan

Fr. Gary and Kevin break down the four main points of Newman’s educational philosophy that will anchor our conversations:

  • The importance of a residential university community
  • The question of values in, and how to define the value of, a university education
  • The idea of educating the whole person
  • Civility of discourse in the university

Additional Resources

Presented by Rev. Gary S. Chamberland, C.S.C. and Kevin Whelan

  • A compilation of Newman’s lectures and writing, helpful guides, and a complete biography can be found at newmanreader.org.
  • “The Idea of a University” is available for free in its entirety through Project Gutenberg.
  • “The Social Dilemma” (2020) explores the claim that the electronic social infrastructure of the modern era is responsible for the fraying of society and destroying a unified perception of reality. While the inclusion of the documentary is not an endorsement of its position, the observations of the interviewees will help to shape an understanding of a modernist view of knowledge for contrast with Newman’s discussion of the same.

Next Week

Presented by Rev. Gary S. Chamberland, C.S.C. and Kevin Whelan

Next week we will be discussing “The Value in a University,” exploring the values of universities and the value in a university education. Fr. Gary and Kevin will be joined in conversation by Rev. Dave Tyson, C.S.C., President of Holy Cross College, Kathleen Sprows Cummings, Director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism, and Aisling MacRunnels, Chief Business and Growth Officer at Synack, a cybersecurity company based in Silicon Valley.

Before next week’s live session, we invite you to join in Sunday’s liturgical celebration of the first anniversary of St. Newman’s canonization. Mass will be celebrated by Fr. Gary and live streamed from University Church at 1:15 p.m. EDT. Join us here.

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