The Catholic University of America

Dec. 13, 2011

CUA Names First Father Kurt Pritzl, O.P., Chair in Philosophy

John Rist Will Teach Beginning in January

  John Rist, who assumes the Pritzl Chair in January, speaks at the symposium on intellect and virtue at Catholic University in 2010.

John Rist, visiting professor at Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum in Rome, will become the first Father Kurt Pritzl, O.P., Chair in Philosophy in January.

The endowed chair was announced in 2009 after the University was given an anonymous gift of $2.5 million to recognize the leadership of Father Pritzl, who joined the faculty of the School of Philosophy in 1980, and served as the school’s dean from 2000 until his death in 2011. The chair creates an additional permanent position on the faculty of the philosophy school.

In 2009, when the gift was announced, Father Pritzl described its significance this way: “The endowment of a chair to bring a scholar of the highest rank and eminence to the School of Philosophy expands an already distinguished faculty in the best possible way and testifies to the permanent and fundamental importance of the work of the school in fulfilling the Catholic academic mission of the University. This chair will advance in perpetuity the research, writing and teaching to which the school is devoted in service to society and the Church.”

“We are delighted Professor Rist will be joining the faculty in the spring,” says John McCarthy, dean of the philosophy school. “He was at the very top of our list. He is a man of astonishing learning, but he deploys his learning in a thoroughly philosophical way, with great energy and verve.

“He will undoubtedly make a notable contribution to the school’s — and the University’s — Catholic academic mission, which was exactly what the chair donors so generously intended,” McCarthy says. “I’m certain that Father Pritzl would be very pleased to know that John Rist will be the first person to occupy the position named in his memory.”

Rist is highly regarded as a scholar, teacher, and author, McCarthy says. His interests range from ancient Greek philosophy to Hellenistic philosophy, Plotinus and Neoplatonism, Greek and Roman Patristics, and medieval philosophy.

Rist has visited the University several times over the past years. Last spring, he participated in the University’s symposium on intellect and virtue. He has also lectured in several of the Philosophy Fall Lecture Series, one of the oldest, continuously running major series of philosophy lectures in the country.

“I liked [Father Pritzl] from the first moment we met: his goodness, intelligence and straightforwardness were transparent, so that I often asked him for his advice (and sometimes he asked me for mine),” Rist says. “I thought his work as dean, so far as I could see it, was exemplary: he wanted all the right things and achieved many of them: above all a group of professors who took both their Catholicism and their academic duties as ‘professional’ philosophers seriously.

“In making the decision to accept to be honored as the first incumbent of the Pritzl Chair, I hoped to do a little to carry on his good work,” he says. “My respect for Father Pritzl was perhaps the major factor in my deciding, at 75, to return to a serious philosophy faculty.”

Rist was educated in classics at Trinity College, Cambridge. He taught Greek at University College in the University of Toronto from 1959 to 1969, and from 1969 to 1980 was a professor of classics at the University of Toronto.

He taught from 1980 to 1983 as Regius Professor of Classics at the University of Aberdeen, and returned to the University of Toronto, where he was professor of classics and philosophy from 1983 to 1996, with a cross-appointment to St. Michael’s College from 1983 to 1990. In 1997, Rist became professor emeritus of the University of Toronto in 1997. He has been visiting professor at the Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum since 1998.

Rist has written extensively on ethics and is the author of 14 books and more than 100 scholarly essays and articles. His most recent book, Plato’s Moral Philosophy, The Discovery of the Presuppositions of Ethics, will be published by The Catholic University of America Press this spring.



More news from CUA