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Matthew Gaetano and his wife Amy.
Courtesy | Matthew Gaetano

What is the most mem­o­rable gift you’ve ever received? My wife, Amy, arranged for me to spend a few days at a house of studies for the Dominican Order. At the time, I was com­pleting my dis­ser­tation on the Dominicans. What is one memory from your childhood that stands out to you? It was the 1996 World Series. I was about 14-years-old. The Yankees were about to go too far down to the Atlanta Braves and the backup catcher hit an unhit­table closer out of the park. I remember running through the house shouting and announcing it to my whole family while they were asleep. Who is one his­torical figure that you would like to see give a lecture at Hillsdale? Thomas Aquinas. I’d also love to hear an oration given by Gio­vanni Pico della Mirandola. What is one thing on your bucket list? During my graduate studies, I was able to spend some time in Spain and Italy. So, I still have a lot of trav­elling to do, espe­cially in Switzerland and Germany. What is some­thing you believed growing up that you still believe today? A fun­da­mental con­viction in the teaching of John 1. I also had an emerging affection as a teenager for a free and repub­lican society. What is some­thing you believed growing up that you have since changed your mind about? Putting aside the fact that my reli­gious views have become more litur­gical and sacra­mental and my political views have become more Aris­totelian, I would acknowledge now that, even if I remain a fan of the New York Yankees, many of their prac­tices have been detri­mental to the game of baseball. I was also deeply mis­taken about asparagus and brussel sprouts – delightful. What is one book you think everyone should read? Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” Also, Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose” is a lot of fun. Who is one person you’ve looked up to (outside of your imme­diate family)? I went to Hillsdale, so I would say my old pro­fessors from when I was here all shaped my per­spective in really sub­stantial ways. I also have amazing in-laws. I really look up to everyone in my wife’s family. Also, the his­torian John O’Malley is kind of a hero. What is the best pur­chase you’ve ever made? The best choice I’ve ever made, after mar­rying my wife, was starting Latin my sophomore year. The best pur­chase I’ve ever made was that I just bought a new house. My family loves it. What is one piece of advice you try to live by? John O’Malley would say, “from the byways to the highways.” What he meant was that, through a very careful attention to a few people and a few texts, you can get a much better window into a his­torical period than when you cast your net really broadly. Dr. Stewart taught me that “neat argu­ments” should always make a his­torian sus­pi­cious. What do you wish more people knew about you? I spent most of my time in middle school and high school playing the piano. That side of my life has faded a bit. Inter­est­ingly enough, one of the reasons I stopped playing piano as often was because I realized that I was never going to be a per­former, and it was just unthinkable that I would ever be a teacher.

Matthew Gaetano (left) playing piano as a child.
Courtesy | Matthew Gaetano

How do you hope to impact your stu­dents? I want them to see that any course here at Hillsdale is just the beginning of what could be a lifetime of inquiry and that that lifetime of inquiry really needs to be ani­mated by devotion, even love, for the truth. It is not some­thing you have to do on your own, and there is a really pro­found way in which friendship and the pursuit of truth are two of the richest parts of life that both ulti­mately end in the same place.