The Edna and George McMahon Aquinas Chair in Philosophy


Vision Statement:

The distinguishing mark of Thomas Aquinas's philosophy was its engagement with every intellectual tradition available to him: Greek, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic.  Guided always by a spirit of charity, Saint Thomas assimilated, critiqued, commented and cajoled.  His interpretive generosity bespoke his confidence that the encounter with truth, whatever its source, can only deepen our understanding of Christian revelation.  He saw a profound unity and compatibility among reality, reason, and faith.  His love and passion for truth not only accounts for the special place of honor Aquinas holds in the Catholic tradition, but makes his mode of philosophical inquiry as challenging to contemporary philosophers as it was to the thinkers of his own day.

Saint Thomas's extraordinary capacity to combine detailed philosophical analysis with a unifying vision set a high standard for all who were to follow him.  It is especially pertinent today, for in an age in which information is proliferating at an astonishing rate, it can be tempting for academic thinkers to retreat into increasingly specialized niches, and for their students to be swept along by every new current.  Aquinas's life and work stand as reminders that serious philosophical thought must resist this temptation.  Thomas challenges us to take seriously the search for wisdom in all its varied expressions.  He reminds us that philosophy is by nature an interdisciplinary enterprise that reaches out across barriers of tradition and training to address the widest possible range of human experience.

The authentic spirit of Thomas Aquinas is found in a dialogue that makes use of all the gifts of human reason and the resources of faith.  It works to build a conversation with all that is good, exploring truth from as many different perspectives as possible.  This conversation needs to take place within the College as well as between the College and the culture at large.  The Catholic tradition has much to offer the contemporary world, and Saint Mary's college is a place where the voice of Saint Thomas, with all its courage of truth and freedom of spirit, continues to make itself heard.  In honoring Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Edna and George McMahon Chair in Philosophy is a sign of faith in the mission of Saint Mary's College, of hope for the flourishing of Christian thought in the 21st century, and of love for truth in all its manifestations.


Establishment of the Chair:

The Edna and George McMahon Aquinas Chair in Philosophy was established in 1999 by a generous gift from Joyce McMahon Hank in honor of her parents, Edna and George McMahon.  Edna McMahon was a courageous and visionary educator in the Chicago public schools, and George McMahon was an innovative scientist who was awarded numerous patents.  Joyce McMahon Hank was graduated from Saint Mary’s College in 1952 with degrees in philosophy and art.  She received an honorary doctorate of humanities from the College in 1995, and is an emerita member of the Board of Trustees.

Through the Edna and George McMahon Aquinas Chair in Philosophy, Saint Mary’s College honors the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, reaffirms its commitment to cultivating and sharing the riches of the Catholic tradition, ensures that the contributions of the Church’s Common Doctor will remain well known among new generations of students, and aspires to help Saint Mary’s women develop their gifts of faith, knowledge, and wisdom in preparation for service as leaders in their communities and throughout the world.