Father Scanlan's Legacy
Father Michael Scanlan, who died in January 2017, is one of the heroes of Catholic higher education in America. In the mid-1970s, he took a failing school, the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio), which had lost almost all of its connection to the Catholic faith, and turned it into a model of a faithful Catholic college, one that trains young people not only in such trades as nursing and teaching, but also in living the faith.
What he did was straightforward enough, I believe. He amassed a "war chest," declared that the university would be dedicated to the faith, and bought out those faculty who would not want to teach there anymore. Hiring decisions were put in the hands of those trusted to advance the mission of the college.
And there you go. Upon that solid foundation much can yet be built. Franciscan may find in the coming years that it will behoove the university to dedicate itself to reclaiming more and more of that desert called the humanities, which at almost all colleges have been ceded to the enemies of the faith and of the humanities themselves.
But the model remains. Father Scanlan understood: if you are not hiring for your mission, then your mission will not be worth a spit. If you are faithful to your mission, you will be an outpost of sanity in a land of madness, and people are attracted to sanity, even when they are compromised by the madness.
Anthony Esolen is a professor at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire, and the author of many books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House). He and his wife Debra publish a web magazine, Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com), on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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