Pupils share praise for their professors

Our Sunday Visitor asked students at Catholic colleges and universities to share with us their favorite professors — the ones who inspire them, who planted the seeds of knowledge and who fanned the flames of faith in their hearts.

These five professors are shining examples of the importance of Catholic higher education, as their students testify to their knowledge of not only the subjects they teach, but to their care and compassion for those to whom they teach it. They show interest in not only the students’ academic lives, but in their spiritual lives.

These five men and women are not only teachers, they are confidants, mentors and spiritual advisers.

If you have a favorite professor, we’d love to hear about him or her. Share your story at feedback@osv.com.

Cuddeback
John Cuddeback Courtesy photo
Hoover
Hoover

John Cuddeback | Philosophy of Human Nature

Christendom College, Front Royal, Virginia

Submitted by Rachel Hoover, 19, sophomore from Nashville, Tennessee

Dr. Cuddeback is the quintessential philosophy professor, the most challenging professor I’ve ever had and the one who was able to amaze me the most. He made it very clear that he expected a lot of effort from us to make class discussions fruitful, and on days when some of us hadn’t read our pages of [Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Theologica”] well enough, he said he was disappointed for our sakes.

He can be humorous, even sublime. One day he was talking about man being a body-soul composite, and how what we do with our bodies can affect our souls and vice-versa, and, in fact, our bodies are amazing because that’s what matter looks like when it is informed by an intellectual soul. Something about the way he said it impressed on me deeper than ever before how “fearfully and wonderfully made” we humans are. I walked out of that class almost floating, wanting to just stare at my hands in amazement at the wonderfulness of it all. I even had tears in my eyes in one of his classes from the sheer beauty of what he was saying.

What Dr. Cuddeback taught us that semester was like a puzzle piece that finally clicked into place, and I see the entire world differently now — in a good way. I had known a lot of what he said before, but the way he drew the answers out of us by more than simply lecturing us gave me a complete understanding of my own humanity and nature in general that was unlike anything I’d learned before.

Leroy Huizenga | Theology, the Gospels

University of Mary, Bismarck, North Dakota

Submitted by Anthony Dukart, 22, senior from Killdeer, North Dakota

Huizenga
Leroy Huizenga
Dukart
Dukart

Dr. Huizenga encourages questions so that the student can understand what he is trying to teach, and he is available outside of class time and is always willing to help. It’s clear that he cares for students not only in their studies, but he also cares for the person who walks through his door looking for guidance on a particular need.

While I was taking the Gospels course, he taught one particular class on how someone should interpret Scripture and present it to others. It opened my eyes to something I had not seen before and was especially helpful because I am a seminarian studying to become a priest in the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota. He was one of many professors that helped me know how I should interact professionally while teaching clearly to present ideas.

Dr. Huizenga is a convert, and I admire those who search ardently for the truth and find it in the Catholic Faith. It is something I did not have to search far for because of my Catholic upbringing, and so he is an inspiration. He is not afraid to say that he is a faithful Christian Catholic, but he is most reverent to students and others of all faiths, and he answers questions with clarity, truth and charity. I have learned some pointers from him on how to answer others who don’t share my faith, and that will be helpful to me in the future.

Dr. Huizenga has a sense of humor, too, and many times I shared a laugh with my classmates because of his jokes. His sense of humor and enthusiasm made the class enjoyable.

Raymund O’Herron | Theology 101, 102

Christendom College, Front Royal, Virginia

Submitted by Julia Rollino, 20, junior from Lander, Wyoming

Rollino
Rollino

Mr. O’Herron makes a point to be precise in teaching our Faith and is dedicated to instilling truth in the minds of his students. I have never encountered a teacher so driven by truth. Although I was raised Catholic and grew up learning the Baltimore Catechism, I still had plenty of questions regarding Catholic doctrine, and he always took the time during class or after to fully answer my questions.

I haven’t had any opportunities to take his classes since freshman year, but I frequently see him on campus and enjoy conversing when we have the chance.

I was distraught last semester when I received word of a terrible tragedy involving the deaths of two dear children of family friends. I suppose you could call it a dark night of the soul, questioning God’s love, mercy and divine plan. While in this state, I happened upon Mr. O’Herron and eventually poured out what was troubling me. Of course the devastation could not be mitigated, but Mr. O’Herron helped me to come to realize the reality of God’s love and to accept God’s will and truly see that God always brings more good out of devastation than suffering.

Mr. O’Herron is a solid theology teacher who keeps us engaged during class and brings us to tears of laughter with his great sense of humor, all the while instilling the truth of Christ in our hearts and minds. He is also extremely approachable outside of class for both great conversations and spiritual advice.

My experiences with him have deeply impacted my life, and I count myself lucky to know this wonderful professor.

Terence Nichols | Theology, founder and director of Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center

St. Thomas University, St. Paul, Minnesota

Nichols
Terence Nichols Courtesy photo

Submitted by Madeline Szempruch, 19, junior from Apple Valley, Minnesota

Everyone who took Dr. Terence Nichols’ course on death, dying and the afterlife said it was an awesome course, and I wanted to be part of it. I had no idea that he had cancer, and when he said he was going to miss some classes, it really struck me how he could teach about dying every day for months when he himself was headed in that direction.

What really affected me was the idea that it’s necessary to have a dialogue about death and to live every moment like you are going to die the next moment, and to live in such a way that you aren’t afraid to talk about another stage of life. I learned that this life is just leading up to something that’s natural, and you should not fear death. You should be informed about it, and in every moment, live what you know. He definitely strengthened my faith because I now have a stronger conviction and feel more strongly about making each day count.

Dr. Nichols was a convert, and he was able to integrate his faith into the course, and that was special to me. He taught about different religions and what their views are on the afterlife, but he was very clear about his own understanding about heaven, hell and purgatory. He didn’t force anything on anyone, but everything he taught was interlaced with the convictions of his faith.

Szempruch
Szempruch
Goba
Goba

One day he told us that he wasn’t feeling well, and another teacher took over the class in his absence. He died over a weekend in April, and we found out about it the next day in class. There was no chance for a goodbye. He just didn’t come back.

If I would have had a chance to tell him goodbye, I would have said thank you for his conviction about his own faith and about making sure that we understood the importance of living life to the fullest. He changed the way I look at things, and I would thank him for that gift.

Lisa Marciano | Professor of English

Christendom College, Front Royal, Virginia

Submitted by Mary Goba, 20, junior from Lombard, Illinois

Dr. Marciano has encouraged me to grow and keep pushing forward and has helped me to progress in my academics and in who I am as a person. She helped to strengthen me in my faith both by what she teaches in the classroom and by being active in her own faith. She has been a tremendous mentor and has given a great deal to me with her great patience and kindness, and I am so grateful for it.

Marciano
Lisa Marciano Courtesy photo
Additional Reading
  •  The challenge of integrating faith, reason
  •  Professors incorporate faith into their classes
  •  Schools help in combining faith, academics
  •  Passion fuels professors outside the classroom
  •  Francis outlines key challenge for professors
  •  'The Road' to Scripture is paved with opportunity
  •  8 tips to becoming a more dynamic educator
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