Nov. 17, 2017
Dr. Christopher McMahon, associate professor of theology in the Saint Vincent College School Humanities and Fine Arts, was presented with the Thoburn Excellence in Teaching Award at the annual Founders’ Day Honors Convocation in the Basilica on Nov. 16 in recognition of his excellence in teaching, dedicated service to students and his commitment to the Benedictine values of Saint Vincent College.
The Thoburn Award is made possible by a gift from the late Thomas W. Thoburn Jr. and Tina Thoburn, D.Ed., Ligonier educators and philanthropists.
Nominations for this award are made by Saint Vincent College alumni five to seven years after graduation. Alumni are invited to name one member of the faculty who has made a significant impact on them through their teaching and personal interactions. Thirty-one different faculty received a total of 55 nominations this year. “This provides a clear indication of the long-lasting impact that our faculty have on our students,” commented Dr. John Smetanka, vice president for academic affairs and academic dean, who made the presentation with Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., president.
McMahon earned a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy and theology from the University of Scranton after serving in the U.S. Army infantry. He then earned a master of arts degree in theology from Saint Mary’s Seminary and University and a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America. Before joining the faculty at Saint Vincent he was on the faculty at two other Benedictine Colleges, Mount Marty College (Yankton, South Dakota) and the University of Mary (Bismarck, North Dakota).
“At Saint Vincent, Dr. McMahon is a master teacher, award-winning coach and champion for service-learning both locally through his First Theology course sections and internationally with his course, Living Theology in Guatemala,” Smetanka commented in making the presentation. “At the beginning of this semester, Dr. McMahon was called upon by his peers to address the entire first-year class. His talk was entitled ‘Making Time for What Really Matters.’ He certainly practices what he preaches.”
“In addition to pouring his all into his classes, Dr. McMahon has served as the assistant and then head coach for the women’s tennis team,” Smetanka continued. “He was Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) coach of the year in 2012 while leading his team to secure the title of PAC champions. Dr. McMahon will be assuming the position of NCAA faculty athletic representative.
“Dr. McMahon’s students provide a window into his classroom. They routinely describe him as ‘very energetic,’ ‘enthusiastic,’ ‘engaging,’ ‘funny,’ and ‘able to keep us awake for those early morning classes,’” Smetanka added.
“A former student shared that ‘Dr. McMahon creates an environment in which controversial and possibly uncomfortable topics can be meaningfully addressed by everyone.’ Another shared that ‘I love the personal connections he makes and the positive preaching he integrates into the course.’ Finally, another graduate in First Theology wrote that ‘Dr. McMahon is wonderful – crazy, but wonderfully so – he stimulated my interest in theology and prepared me not just for the exams but for life as well,’ Smetanka concluded. “Shine on you crazy diamond. Dr. McMahon, in recognition of your making time for what really matters, for your dedication to teaching and learning, for your positive preaching and for your championing and role modeling of service to others it is my pleasure to present to you the 2017 Thoburn Excellence in Teaching Award.”
Upon accepting the Thoburn Award, McMahon commented, “I learned early in my teaching career that ‘to teach is to fail,’ and sometimes to fail spectacularly. To the administration, my colleagues Jason King, Patricia Sharbaugh, Catherine Petrany, Nathan Munsch and to my former and current students, all of whom have given me permission to fail and thereby the opportunity to succeed, I would like to express profound gratitude for creating this community of learning and for allowing me to share in it.”
McMahon has served as president of the Saint Vincent Faculty Council and is the author or co-author of several books including “Understanding Jesus: Christology from Emmaus to Today,” “Reading the Gospels: Biblical Interpretation in the Catholic Tradition,” “Called Together: An Introduction to Ecclesiology” and “Finding Salvation in Christ.” For the past nine years McMahon has also worked with Kelly King, the Director of the Saint Vincent Office of Service Learning and Community Outreach, to lead annual service-learning trips to Guatemala.
A native of Silver Spring, Maryland, he and his wife, Dr. Debra Faszer-McMahon, dean of the School of Humanities at Seton Hill University, live in Pleasant Unity. He is a member of Saint Vincent Basilica Parish.
Photo: Dr. Christopher McMahon of Pleasant Unity, right, associate professor of theology in the Saint Vincent College School of Humanities and Fine Arts, was presented with the Thoburn Excellence in Teaching Award at the Saint Vincent College Founders’ Day Honors Convocation on Nov. 16 in the Basilica by Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., president, left. The award recognizes his excellence in teaching, dedicated service to students and his commitment to the Benedictine values of Saint Vincent College.
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