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Six UD students claim McGrath Award for research in Catholic intellectual traditions

By Bridgett Dillenburger ’23

Six University of Dayton students received 2022 Fr. Jack McGrath, S.M., Awards for Research in Catholic Intellectual Traditions and presented their research at the annual Catholic Intellectual Tradition symposium Feb. 14-15 in Kennedy Union Torch Lounge.

The McGrath Award recognizes students whose research in a Common Academic Program (CAP) course demonstrates rigorous, deep and creative engagement with thinkers, texts and/or themes associated with Catholic Intellectual Traditions (CIT). Students received a $500 stipend along with their opportunity to present at the symposium.

“We search for a clear connection to the distinguishing characteristics of CIT,” said Timothy Gabrielli, Gudorf Chair in Catholic Intellectual Traditions and associate professor of theology in the religious studies department. “When we think about CIT, we think about the texts that are put together by Catholics as well as others who are dealing with those great questions of human existence in dialogue with the Catholic tradition.” 

The 2022 McGrath Award recognized three students each in the first-year/sophomore and junior/senior categories. Research projects associated with CIT from spring, summer or fall 2021 CAP courses of any academic discipline were eligible for consideration. Gabrielli said there were more than 20 submissions reviewed this year. 

The 2022 awardees:

  • Julie Pugh, a first-year international studies major from Huntersville, North Carolina. Her project, completed for the Development of Western Culture in a Global Context course taught by associate professor Elizabeth Mackay, is “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life” a Summary & Rhetorical Analysis of Augustine’s Conversion Story.
  • Benjamin Schaiper, a first-year mechanical engineering major from Cincinnati. His project, completed for the Honors Writing Seminar taught by associate professor Tom Wendorf, is Werner Heisenberg - A Philosophical Physicist.
  • Eleanor Yates-McEwan, a first-year philosophy major from Centerville, Ohio. Her project, completed for the Development of Western Culture in a Global Context course taught by professor Susan Trollinger, is He Came in like a Wrecking Ball: How Martin Luther Dismantled the Three Walls of the Romanists.
  • Kate Sidor, a junior music studies major from Palos Park, Illinois. Her project, completed for Early Music Ensemble taught by senior lecturer Ryu-Kyung Kim, is Rediscovering the Music of Seventeenth-Century Nun Composers within the Modern Catholic Musical Practice.
  • Jordan McCormick, a senior Catholic religious education major from Cincinnati. Her project, completed for the Religious Studies and Theology Capstone Seminar taught by associate professor Neomi De Anda, is Cultivating Encounter: The Theology of Philia in a Broken World.
  • Molly Obergefell, a junior music therapy major from Concord, Ohio. Her project, completed for Ethics and American Popular Music taught by associate professor Samuel Dorf, is Rewriting “Love Yourself."

Yates-McEwan said she was honored to be recognized as a first-year student. She said she was inspired to be a better writer and to push herself further in her work since it was going to be submitted for the award. 

“The McGrath Award made me realize there is a sphere for this kind of academic discussion to be celebrated, which is really inspiring, and now I get to add to that discussion,” Yates-McEwan said. “Regardless of what religion you practice, there are always questions of our place in the world and who we are as people, and I think it is really neat that the Catholic Intellectual Tradition addresses those universal issues.” 

Yates-McEwan’s project, He Came in like a Wrecking Ball: How Martin Luther Dismantled the Three Walls of the Romanists, focused on Martin Luther and his use of scripture as a key component to CIT. 

The McGrath Award, named in honor of Fr. Jack McGrath (1935-2015) is sponsored by the Gudorf Chair in Catholic Intellectual Traditions. Gabrielli said the award developed out of his intention to highlight these conversations related to CIT in the same way as Fr. McGrath. 

“Father McGrath was instrumental in cultivating these discussions on campus around Catholic Intellectual Tradition among faculty and students,” Gabrielli said. 

Gabrielli said he wanted to emphasize the resources provided by a Catholic institution for students to explore these larger questions. He said he was impressed with seeing how students are able to articulate their understanding of the Catholic Traditions and wanted the McGrath Award to showcase that. 

“There’s language in various places in the Common Academic Program about CIT and seeing that in action can help us cultivate a better sense of what CIT looks like integrated into a course,” Gabrielli said. “I hope the McGrath Award is an encouragement for students to continue to do this kind of work, and a recognition of excellence and creativity.” 

Gabrielli said he wants the work of students recognized by the McGrath Award to emphasize that Catholic tradition is applicable in a range of disciplines at the University. 

“The Catholic Intellectual Tradition is not just in the religious studies department or even the humanities disciplines, it is beyond that,” he said. “It describes what we do as a university.” 

The award committee included Corrine Daprano, associate dean for the School of Education and Health Sciences and professor and interim chair for the Department of Health and Sport Science; David Fine, assistant professor of English; Julio Quintero, director for inclusive excellence strategy and initiatives; William Trollinger, professor of history and Core program director; and Pamela Young, director of accreditation for the School of Education and Health Sciences. 

For more information about the McGrath Award, visit the website

Photo middle (left to right), top: Jordan McCormick, Benjamin Schaiper, Kate Sidor. Bottom: Julie Pugh, Eleanor Yates-McEwan, Molly Obergefell.

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