Thanks to the generous support from Mr. and Mrs. Michael Halloran ‘60, the English department hosted the first annual Fr. Tom Grace Memorial Lecture in Medieval Studies. This was the first time that I had heard of Fr. Grace, but I actually owe most of my education at Holy Cross to him. Fr. Grace was an Oxford-trained Medievalist who was a member of the English faculty in the 1950’s and 60’s. He inspired a generation of Holy Cross students to go to graduate school, and many of them became medievalists, including Traugott Lawler, who is a Professor Emeritus at Yale University and was present at the speech yesterday. He reflected upon how Fr. Grace inspired him personally and professionally – according to Mr. Lawler, Fr. Grace relied heavily on the Socratic method and wanted students to lead discussion instead of lecturing to them for hours on end. He pushed them to deliver only their finest and to follow their academic passions, whatever they might be. So, although I never met Fr. Grace, I feel connected to him through my association with Holy Cross, Oxford, and the medieval period. The talk also helped me realize the Holy Cross Medieval Studies tradition of which I’ve become a part, starting with Fr. Grace and continuing through Professor Lawler.
The speaker last night was Dean Seth Lerer from the University of California in San Diego. Funny story – one of his books was actually on my reading list for one of my tutorials last year. Small world, huh? Anyway, Dean Lerer talked about a manuscript that he happened to find at the San Diego Public Library. It’s a 15th century book of hours that has additions in it throughout the 16th (and maybe 17th) century. These personal prayers are written in a letter-like style, and they possess a Pauline quality. I’m going to stop there because I’m afraid that I’m going to bore most of you to death if I continue, but if you’ve followed this blog at all, you can probably guess why I was so excited about the talk. Lerer was an extremely energetic presenter, and we’re really so blessed to have had him as the speaker for the first Tom Grace Memorial Lecture.
What was also fantastic is that I got to go out to dinner with Dean Lerer, Professor Lawler, Professor Kee, Professor Ireland, and Mr. and Mrs. Halloran after the presentation. The conversation was superb – I was able to talk to Professor Lawler about medieval studies (whoever decided to seat the two of us next to each other…THANK YOU). It turns out that Professor Lawler is very good friends with Ralph Hanna (that’s a blast from the past for you blog readers). Dean Lerer attended Oxford for his Masters (Hertford College, actually!), so I was able to talk with him about graduate school, etc. And, perhaps the best moment of the night was when Mr. Halloran commented on my polka dot socks (they were the only clean trouser socks that I had, and I thought my pants were covering them). At that, Dean Lerer showed us his “modest” argyle socks. It was, quite frankly, one of the best nights that I’ve had at Holy Cross.
So, here’s to Fr. Grace and all those that he was able to inspire in his brief time at Holy Cross!