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.
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.