The award is given annually by students in the Boston College chapter of the academic honor society to a faculty member who has achieved distinction as a teacher and advisor.
Fr. Howard is the 11th winner of the award since its inception in 1990, and the third teacher in the A&S Honors Program to be honored, joining adjunct associate professors Mary Joe Hughes and Mark O'Connor.
"It's a special honor to placed in that company - and to be placed there by that company," said Fr. Howard, whose course in Western Cultural Tradition introduces freshmen to the Great Books, among them the Aeneid and the Odyssey , the Bible, Plato's Republic , and St. Augustine's Confessions .
Fr. Howard describes his teaching style by recalling a dictum by Cardinal John Henry Newman, "Great minds need elbow room."
"It is best to consider all freshman as having great minds," explained Fr. Howard. "I like another quote of Cardinal Newman's: that we should not want our opinions handed to us 'as a man has his napkin laid for breakfast.'
College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program Senior Lect. John W. Howard, SJ, leads a recent class. "Good teachers try to bring out the individual gifts of each student, and try to encourage students to have their own opinions."
"Good teachers try to bring out the individual gifts of each student, and try to encourage students to have their own opinions," he said. "I like a student who argues with me. That's the only way you stay on your toes, the only way the other students stay on their toes - and the only way you discover the truth."
Fr. Howard left Boston College during his sophomore year in 1957 to enter the Society of Jesus. He received a degree in divinity from Weston School of Theology in 1968, and a master's degree in classical philology from Harvard University in 1971.
His 35 years as a teacher include two tours in the A&S Honors Program, from 1975 to 1981, and from 1987 to present.
"I'm pleased that another member of the A&S Honors Program has been chosen by the students," said the Phi Beta Kappa chapter's president, Assoc. Prof. Richard Tresch (Economics). "Probably half of the Phi Beta Kappa students go through that program. It's gratifying that these very serious students think very highly of the professors there."
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