Quinn quietly acquiesces award

Chair of the Philosophy Department honored for excellence in teaching

Philosophy department chair, Timothy Quinn, was honored as the recipient of the 2020 Roger A. Fortin Award for Outstanding Teaching and Scholarship in the Humanities for his commitment to academic excellence.

Among the tomes on German idealism and piles of loose papers stacked high, a new award illuminates the desk of Philosophy Department Chair Dr. Timothy Quinn. Recently honored with the Fortin Award for Outstanding Teaching and Scholarship in the Humanities, Quinn accepts the award humbly.

“The official proclamation indicates that it is for an outstanding teacher and scholar in the humanities, but it truly indicates the fact that my students are very bright,” Quinn said. “All these awards don’t really mean anything. It just means that my students are wonderful.”

Quinn’s care and gratitude for his students is at the center of his personal teaching philosophy.

“I’m not being pejorative or rhetorical. You can’t teach other human beings, you can just help other human beings learn,” Quinn said.

Quinn has been a professor at Xavier for 33 years and chair of the philosophy department for four years. He attended the Catholic University of America to receive his undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Quinn described his position at Xavier as both teaching and protecting the liberal arts tradition.

“I’ve spent my entire career attempting to defend the liberal arts from annihilation, because that’s where they’re at most schools,” Quinn said of his struggle to regenerate and maintain interest in liberal arts studies. “I’m fighting to keep them alive.”

Quinn noted that revitalizing the Honors Bachelors of Arts (HAB) program, one of many facets of maintaining liberal arts studies, was a highlight of his Xavier career. As director of the HAB program during the ‘90s, Quinn brought the program’s enrollment from four students to 40.

He described how the day after receiving a job offer from Xavier, his father passed away. A businessman known for increasing product popularity, Quinn’s father inspired him to vivify the previously low-interest HAB program.

“The HAB program is pretty much the only place for people who are passionate about ancient Western civilization to study its languages, philosophy and everything in between,” senior HAB and biomedical sciences double major James Stebbins said. “Dr. Quinn, having brought that back, helped to enrich Xavier’s educational community.”

Quinn’s passion for both philosophy and education demonstrates his merit as a recipient of the award. Particularly in his metaphysics class, Quinn’s love for the subject and students shines through his teaching.

“The students are firing on all cylinders in that class but they are rising to the challenge,” Quinn said. “The real teacher in the class becomes Descartes or Aristotle.”

“Dr. Quinn is able to take these concepts that he studied for years and break them down into bite-sized manageable pieces,” Stebbins said of the class. “He teaches in a way that students who might not study philosophy for the rest of their lives, but are certainly passionate about it now, are able to understand his thoughts and the author’s thoughts.”

Many students agreed that Quinn’s adaptive and intuitive teaching style has made him deserving of the Fortin award.

“I became close with him in Israel and I can honestly say that out of all the teachers I’ve had, he’s the one I’ve truly felt connected to,” senior Philosophy, Politics and the Public (PPP) major Niko Patrico said of his presence on the yearly PPP trip to Israel. 

Quinn’s humility upon receiving the award was supplemented by gratitude towards the university and his students. “I’m grateful for the award but I’m also embarrassed by it. There are so many professors who are equally deserving… I’m so proud to have been thought worthy of this award,” Quinn said