Timothy Minella, former leader of the undergraduate fellows program of The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI), has accepted a position for the 2017-18 academic year as instructor in the Villanova University Augustine and Culture Seminar Program. The program, a required first-year, two-course sequence, teaches the great books of the Western and Catholic tradition.
Dr. Minella earned his Ph.D. in the history of science from the University of South Carolina in 2015, where he held the prestigious Presidential Scholarship. He recently completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Emory University’s Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry. He received his undergraduate degree from Hamilton College, graduating Phi Beta Kappa as a major in physics and government. During Dr. Minella’s senior year at Hamilton College, AHI Charter Fellow Douglas Ambrose turned him onto history, and Minella subsequently combined his interests in science and history in pursuing a Ph.D. He returned to the AHI in April 2016 to speak to Hamilton students on history and science, and then with undergraduate fellows at a Leadership Dinner. His discussion delved into the topic of his dissertation, “Knowing in America: The Enlightenment, Science, and the Early Republic.”
The Augustine and Culture Seminar brings together students from the university’s various colleges, is designed to be interdisciplinary, and fosters engagement with Augustinian tradition. Villanova was founded by the Order of St. Augustine, and Augustine’s Confessions forms the core of the first course, which runs from antiquity to the medieval period; the second course covers the Renaissance to the present. Each instructor chooses texts that relate to a theme from Augustine’s thought, such as the relationship between faith and reason.
Dr. Minella was one of the first students to be nurtured by AHI, and gives credit to it for cultivating his interest in great books of the Western tradition. “In its reading groups and conferences,” he explained, “the AHI emphasizes the discussion of important primary texts in philosophy, economics, and religion. Participating in the AHI’s programs fired my enthusiasm for reading these texts, and I look forward to teaching them in the fall.” Among the texts that he studied at AHI is Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s speech, “A World Split Apart,” the famous 1978 commencement address at Harvard University. It is one he is putting into his syllabus.
AHI Charter Fellow Robert Paquette praised Dr. Minella for his intellect and character. “During the spring semester 2009,” Paquette recalled, “Tim Minella attended a seminar that I co-taught with AHI co-founder Jim Bradfield, a libertarian economist, on the idea and institution of property. The course ranged cross-culturally and included a daunting list of required readings, by Aristotle, Plato, Locke, Bentham, Marx, Rousseau, Richard Pipes, and Hernando De Soto, for example. The course began with the debate between Plato and Aristotle on which form of property buttresses the best regime and ended with a searching examination of the majority and minority opinions in the controversial Supreme Court case, Kelo v. New London (2005). The course was notoriously difficult with eight papers, a mid-term, and an oral final examination that consisted of grilling students with questions about their previous papers in front of an audience whose members also asked questions. Grade inflation does not exist in my classes. In my thirty-seven years at Hamilton, I have given out perhaps forty As. In this seminar, Mr. Minella was the only student to receive an A.”
The AHI congratulates Dr. Minella on his many accomplishments and wishes him well in the vital task of passing on to another generation a great inheritance.
By Mary Grabar, AHI Resident Fellow