The Catholic University of America

April 29, 2011

CUA Honors 3 Professors for Outstanding Research and Scholarship

  President John Garvey with Assistant Professor of Physics Tanya Horn and Provost James Brennan.


While their research and scholarship vary widely, three professors of physics, music, and politics who were honored April 28 by The Catholic University of America all reflect the highest levels of faculty accomplishment at CUA.

Provost James Brennan, who served as the master of ceremonies at a reception at the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, noted that the awardees “represent the best of our standards of scholarly achievement.”

Receiving awards were Assistant Professor of Physics Tanja Horn, Young Faculty Scholar Award; Professor of Politics Claes G. Ryn, Achievement in Research Faculty Award; and Professor of Music Andrew Simpson, Achievement in the Expressive and Performing Arts. Each awardee also received $2,500.

At the event, President John Garvey presented a plaque to each of the awardees as approximately 50 of their faculty colleagues and staff applauded. As they received their awards, the honorees thanked the University and shared their thoughts about working at CUA, where, as Brennan noted, “much of our history … has been devoted to the pursuit of excellence in research and scholarship.”

In addition, Brennan also recognized Monsignor Kevin Irwin, dean of theology and religious studies who will be stepping down from his position at the end of June. Monsignor Irwin will remain at CUA as a faculty member. Among Monsignor Irwin’s numerous accomplishments as dean, Brennan noted his building of the school’s faculty and “the strategic positioning” of the school in higher education.

Horn, whose expertise is nuclear physics, acknowledged the support of a number of CUA administrators and offices, including the Office of Procurement for taking care of her “sometimes complicated requests” for equipment. Horn and her students have built a nuclear accelerator in Hannan Hall, which houses the physics department.

Horn’s primary research deals with the structures of selected subatomic particles, specifically pions, hadrons, quarks, and gluons. The German-born professor spent three years as a postdoctoral research fellow in nuclear physics at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Va., where she continues to do research.

Brennan noted that even in the weeks prior to her formal CUA appointment in August 2009, “Dr. Horn was a regular visitor” in CUA’s Office of Sponsored Research. Of the six proposals that she has written since that summer, three have been funded and total more than $1 million, Brennan added. The author of more than 30 scholarly articles, Horn is a frequent presenter at academic conferences.

Horn was selected as an awardee because of “her accessibility, interactive style, enthusiasm, service as a mentor, and scholarship,” said Brennan. He noted that Horn’s students are actively involved in her research. “She has made mentoring undergraduate and graduate students central to her commitment to the University.”

Brennan noted that music professor Simpson‘s “wide ranging and prolific career as a composer and performer” has brought national and international acclaim to the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music.

President Garvey with Professor of Music Andrew Simpson and Provost Brennan.


Simpson, who serves as chair of the music school’s theory and composition program, has gained prominence as a composer for silent film and frequently performs either improvised music or his own scores at screenings in the United States and abroad. Favorable reviews in The Washington Post and other media outlets attest to his growing popularity as a concert music composer in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, Brennan noted.

His operatic trilogy on the “Oresteia Tragedies” (with a libretto by his wife, Sarah Brown Ferrario, an assistant professor in CUA’s Department of Greek and Latin) premiered at Catholic University. The trilogy reflects Simpson’s long-time dedication to incorporating aspects of ancient Greek culture in his new compositions, Brennan noted.

Brennan added that Simpson has developed valuable learning opportunities for undergraduate composition majors. Under Simpson’s direction, students wrote operas based on mini plays by Thornton Wilder that premiered at CUA in 2008 as part of a University festival highlighting Wilder’s work.

In his remarks, Simpson noted that “an artist’s work is, simply, to discover himself and to express that self as well as possible, regardless of reward, criticism, or fashion.” He added that at CUA he has been able “to follow this distinctive path. There has been great freedom in this continuing journey of self-discovery.”

In his remarks about politics professor Ryn, Brennan noted that he was honored in 1992 by the University’s Graduate Student Association with its “Excellence in Teaching” award, which recognizes the best graduate teacher at CUA.

Ryn’s wide-ranging research interests include the history of Western political thought, ethics and politics, politics and the imagination, historicism, the theory of knowledge, conservatism, American political thought, and constitutionalism.

A survey of more than 1,000 political theory professors published last year in PS: Political Science and Politics ranked Ryn among the top 50 political theorists “Doing Excellent Work Today Whose Work Will Be Influential During the Next 20 Years.”

  President Garvey with Professor of Politics Claes G. Ryn and Provost Brennan.


The survey also ranked Ryn’s journal, Humanitas, among the 30 journals most often read by political theory professors, Brennan said. Ryn is the author of several books that have earned him international attention.

Published in English in 2003, his book, “America the Virtuous: The Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Empire,” was the subject of a laudatory review in the Times of London Literary Supplement. In Chinese translation, the book was praised in an article in Dushu, China's most highly regarded and widely read intellectual magazine, and in the top literary academic journal Cross-Cultural Dialogues, published at Beijing University.

“America the Virtuous” was published in Chinese by both Beijing University Press in 2007 and Horizon Media in Shanghai in 2008. Ryn gave the Distinguished Foreign Scholar Lectures at Beijing University in 2000.

In 2007, Ryn delivered a keynote address at Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Social Sciences — one of China’s pre-eminent think tanks. In addition, he has given invited lectures at many other universities and institutions including Cornell, Georgetown, and Tufts universities, St. Andrews University in Scotland, Uppsala University in his native Sweden, and the Senate of the Czech Republic.

In accepting his award, Ryn noted “the wonderfully free intellectual environment” at CUA. “It is something for which I will always be grateful. Thank you, Catholic University.”


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