Maureen O’Connell, Ph.D., Honored with 2017 Distinguished Lasallian Educator Award
La Salle University’s mission is, simply, “To help students gain theoretical and practical knowledge, deepen their ethical sensibilities, and prepare for a lifetime of continuous learning, professional success, and dedicated service.” The Distinguished Lasallian Educator Award provides the University an opportunity to recognize a person from within the community who represents unwavering dedication to this mission. As such, Maureen O’Connell, Ph.D., associate professor of religion, is the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Lasallian Educator Award.
“I have come to learn that this La Salle community is one of pilgrims, because pilgrims don’t make their way alone. They journey in community as individuals walking their own path, but oriented towards the same good,” O’Connell said. “What I’ve also learned is that teaching is really a vocation of the heart. When we say, ‘Live Jesus in our hearts forever,’ it’s not a statement of belief, it’s an invocation that says, please allow the values of Jesus to animate the work that I do. I am very grateful for having learned that, because it has transformed my own sense of who I am trying to be as an educator.”
Recipients who best exhibit the University’s values and mission in their daily lives are nominated and chosen by a panel of faculty and staff. Brother Ernest Miller, D. Min., La Salle’s Vice President for Mission, presented O’Connell with the award during the University’s Opening Meeting by saying, “Maureen’s vigorous and resolute commitment to achieving the aims of Catholic higher education in a Lasallian key is unmistakable. She gives witness to building a vibrant, participatory, inclusive community at La Salle. We see this in countless ways: As a convener of the Ferguson and Beyond cohort; a coordinator of the Imagining the Beloved Community Teach-In; a member of the University’s Community Building Team through which she has established genuine relationships with our Belfield and Germantown neighbors.”
After eight years in the Theology Department at Fordham University, Maureen O’Connell returned to her native city of Philadelphia in 2013 to Chair the Department of Religion at La Salle University, where she is also an Associate Professor of Christian Ethics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in History from Saint Joseph’s University and a Ph.D. in Theological Ethics from Boston College.
She authored Compassion: Loving Our Neighbor in an Age of Globalization (Orbis Books, 2009) and If These Walls Could Talk: Community Muralism and the Beauty of Justice (The Liturgical Press, 2012), which won the College Theology Book of the Year Award in 2012 and the Catholic Press Association’s first place for books in theology in 2012. Her current research project explores the interplay of being Catholic and “becoming white” across five generations of her family’s history in the City of Philadelphia, as well as racial identity formation in Catholic higher education. She serves on the boards of the Society for the Arts in Religious and Theological Studies, and Rosemont College.