Leith to Deliver Convocation Address
August 27, 2010
At Tuesday's Academic Convocation, Religious Studies Professor Mary Joan Leith will deliver the keynote address. The recipient of last year's Louise F. Hegarty Excellence in Teaching Award, Leith has taught at Stonehill since 1993. Below is an interview with Leith, which appeared in the Winter/Spring 2010 issue of the Stonehill Alumni Magazine.
Award-Winning Professor Shares Fun and Fact
Award-Winning Prof. Shares Fun and Fact
The best and brightest students flock to her classes, and she has been called "inspired and inspiring." So, it is no surprise that Associate Professor of Religious Studies Mary Joan Leith was this year's recipient of the Louise F. Hegarty Excellence in Teaching Award.
Here, Leith recalls the day a student came to class dressed as Moses, sheds light on a popular misconception about the Virgin Mary, and admits to the Lego figures she has in her office when she chats with SAM.
MOST MEMORABLE TEACHING MOMENT: A couple of students in an Old Testament course surprised the class and me by arriving one day dressed like Moses and Aaron-including long fake beards-and carrying a model of the Ark of the Covenant that they'd made from cardboard and gold spray paint.
MOST POPULAR COURSE THAT I TEACH: Technically this would be my first-year seminar, "God Doesn't Do Religion...." I feel about my courses like I do about my children; I can't choose one over the other.
AN IDEA OR THOUGHT THAT I WANT MY STUDENTS TO LEARN FROM ME: Never assume! Find evidence.
AN IDEA OR THOUGHT THAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM A STUDENT: One example has to do with Rites of Passage (turning point rituals like baptism, confirmation, marriage). I use getting a driver's license as a secular example and had for years said, "Of course, there's no name change with getting a license." One of my students, however, said, "Oh yes there is. What about the license number? That is a form of a ‘new name.'" And he was right. I tell that story to my class whenever I cover the topic.
IF I HADN'T BECOME A PROFESSOR, I MAY HAVE BECOME: I wanted to teach from the time I was in college. But I might have become a doctor-another profession where I can express my natural "bossiness" in a good cause.
A BOOK THAT I CAN READ REPEATEDLY: George Eliot's Middlemarch is a perfect novel and full of wise advice and observations.
FAVORITE PLACE ON CAMPUS: The MacPháidín Library.
SOMETHING ABOUT THE VIRGIN MARY THAT MOST PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE: That the Immaculate Conception is NOT about Jesus. It's the conception of Mary. Jesus' birth is the Virgin Birth.
MOST INTERESTING ARCHAELOGICAL EXPLORATION: Doing an archaeological survey of the Orontes Valley in northern Syria and discovering dozens of ancient sites, from the Stone Age through the Ottoman period, just scattered across the plains.
IN MY OFFICE I HAVE: Pictures of my family and dogs. Lego figures of a mummy, a pirate, and an Arab warrior. A Passover Seder plate I bought for 25 cents at a Harvard yard sale that I use in class. A movie poster for Mogambo, featuring Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly. Lots of Bibles.
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.