The FOrum The Official Newsletter of Belmont Abbey's Honors College


With finals concluded and Christmas and New Year's right around the corner, it is hard to believe that the 2019 Fall semester has quickly come and gone. In August, the Honors College joyfully welcomed a new class of 30 Freshmen. Later in October, faculty and students enjoyed seeing old friends (and meeting new babies!) during the Honors homecoming reception and bonfire. We missed many of you but were delighted to welcome back so many familiar faces.

In this issue of The Forum, we highlight this summer's Honors adventures, various cultural events and gatherings, an interview with the assistant director of the Honors College and English professor, Dr. Joshua Hren, and some exciting alumni news. Again, we always welcome suggestions and announcements so please email ideas to lilymullen@abbey.bac.edu. We hope you enjoy this update on the program as it continues to grow and flourish.

-Lily Mullen, Class of '21, Honors College student worker and Newsletter Editor


Adventures Abroad and Abbey by the Sea, Summer 2019

Reflections on Italy from the Honors Seniors

John Paul Hamilton (Honors '20): In our time abroad, the focus of one of our classes often centered on food, both its meaning in Italian culture and its very delicious reality. Thus, as you can imagine, we had to eat a lot of pasta for academic purposes. Almost every meal, in fact, contained a course of pasta done up in a different way. However, Italians are very picky about (1) their food—how it is prepared, where the ingredients are from, how long the pasta is cooked—and (2) the way you eat their food. “Every time you cut a pasta noodle,” warned one of our professors, grim and prophetic, “an Italian grandmother dies.” Because you don’t want to kill an innocent, sweet Nona, you too begin to eat pasta like an Italian. This means, of course, that you must roll your pasta on your fork (The trick of using a spoon to help was not universal. In central Italy, it was enough to have only a fork). The trick to this difficult culinary trial is, as the same professor demonstrated to me after ridiculing my attempts to eat basic spaghetti, you have to separate a small pile of noodles from the rest of the lump, and then, with your fork perpendicular to the plate in the small noodle nest, you spin the fork in a clockwise direction. Counterclockwise does not work as well (this is strangely true). Once you have a sizeable amount of spaghetti on your fork that does not immediately unwind, you may eat. At this point in the demonstration, my professor held up the perfectly wound spaghetti to my mouth like an airplane. I obliged, enlightened by the ways of Italy.

Italy Adventures

Theresa Wilson (Honors '20): From zip-lining in small towns in the Apennines to walking eight miles a day to see all of Rome in a week, the Summer Institute in Italy was a blast! We took two classes during the program: Narrating Italian Food and Wine and an introductory Italian language course and within them we had four guest lectures, and one of them involved a trip to a cheese factory! In the factory we wore the coolest outfits; I kept the hat and brought it home! Later in Castelnuovo we embarked on two hikes as well as a six mile bike ride, a ropes course, and a perpetual round of the capitalism card game. The six of us also discovered a latent love for and talent at Foosball. Francis won a tournament against Elizabeth and I in the last round.

Where do I start with Rome! Shoutout to the water fountains around the city for keeping us going on our long excursions! My favorite church was the Santa Scala or Holy Steps which Jesus walked up to reach the praetorium. I honestly can’t fit the experience and memories into so few words as the alumni know! I hope you Juniors similarly enjoy your turn next year!

Abbey by the Sea

To celebrate reaching the halfway mark of their studies in college, the current Junior class joined Dr. and Mrs. Thuot in an academic retreat in Hilton Head, SC in May. There they discussed Shakespeare's King Lear and enjoyed exploring the island by bike.

The Honors Beach Retreat hosted in Hilton Head by Dr. and Mrs. Thuot

A few members of the Honors College Class of '23 after Matriculation on August 17th

Cultural Events This Fall, Honors students and faculty had the pleasure of attending Les Miserables at Ovens Autitorium and a Dvorak's New World Symphony No. 9. Pictured below is the group that attended the Dvorak's Symphony at the Belk Theatre on Nov. 23rd


Elijah Buerkle

  • Year: Class of '23
  • Major: Philosophy, Politics, and Economics with a Minor in Great Books
  • Hometown: Albany, GA
  • Why Belmont Abbey? I knew I was looking for a Catholic school and both my parents are alumni. Belmont Abbey is fairly close to home and gave me the opportunity to play tennis. I really love the school. When I came for scholarship weekend and took Dr. Hren’s class on St. Benedict’s Rule and St. Thomas’ Summa the way he taught and the conversation we had was amazing. I just had to join.
  • What has been your favorite part about being in the Honors College? The friends that I’ve made! The environment and how much we’re learning allows for amazing bonds to develop. Being in all the same classes we become very close. Also, spiritually, everything we learn in some way or another points to Christ. I really love that. It’s incredible and so different than attending a secular college. The Honors College really encourages me to work hard and to learn. I haven’t always had this level of motivation. The classes have really developed me a lot. My writing skills have improved dramatically, and now when I read I formulate questions for class rather than taking everything at face value. I definitely question more and better form my own opinions, which will serve me well in any career.

Laura Dimarzio

  • Year: Class '23
  • Major: English with a Minor in Great Books
  • Hometown: Damascus, MD
  • What drew you to the Abbey? The Honors College! When I found the Honors scholarship I really liked everything I saw. My visit was the deciding factor. I’d already been accepted but being able to talk to the professors and sit in on classes really helped. I really like the discussion based seminars. When I first got in I receive a personal email that showed my application had been read thoroughly and the Honors College really seemed to care about how I would fit in and what I liked studying.
  • What goods have you experienced because of your decision to come here?How much everyone here is trying to build a community of friends. Everyone wants to learn and cares about what we’re learning. Spiritually, it’s really nice having all the monks around. I go to vespers with them, and Mass and confession being so close is very nice. I really like studying philosophy and literature because it’s a good way to look at my faith from the outside—it’s different then memorizing the Catechism. You come to understand more what you mean by those things we profess as Christians. Sometimes I’ll have moments when nothing makes sense and then suddenly I figure it out! And WOW! It’s so exciting.
From the Desk of the Director

Dear Friends,

May Christ’s peace be with you as we approach the celebration of His birth this Christmas season. We write with the additional glad tidings that the Honors College is thriving. We’ve welcomed a freshmen cohort of 30 wonderful students who have brought the total number of those currently engaged in our great texts curriculum to over 60. Applications for the coming school year have increased by over 700 percent. We’ve been named one of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni’s "Hidden Gems" and have continued to receive a great deal of support from our partnership with the Classical Learning Test and the Circe Institute.

The Honors College has also done a great deal to promote public lectures and intellectual life on and off campus, most notably partnering with our Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) Club in order to bring LSU’s Dr. James Stoner to campus for a lecture titled “Liberal or Civic Education: Which Does Democracy Need Most?” We attended wonderful performances of Les Miserables and Dvorak’s New World Symphony. The year was also marked by our second annual Homecoming reception and inaugural bonfire, which brought together students, alumni, faculty, and the larger community in celebration and song. We hope to continue this initiative and others like it in the near future. Please stay tuned!

There is far more good happening here than any number of encouraging statistics and robust events can convey. In all of these endeavors, we aim to foster a possibility so often lost in our lonely modern world: community centered in the shared pursuit of truth. Our time in the classroom makes possible and is in turn made possible by the friendships that develop in and outside of the classroom. Our curriculum provides an introduction to a life-long, centuries-old conversation that makes a rare and choiceworthy form of friendship possible. The conversations, warmth, and above all the smiles of our students are a testimony to the good that, ever ancient, is taking root anew in this time and place.

In the near future, we will be sharing some exciting news about our spring lecture series, networking opportunities, and a special fundraising project. More immediately, if you are interested in attending a possible alumni/friends of the Honors College intellectual retreat weekend in the early summer please contact christinebasil@bac.edu.

God bless you and Merry Christmas,

The Honors College Faculty

Joe Wysocki, Christine Basil, and Joshua Hren

An Honorable Mention

An interview with Dr. Joshua Hren, the Assistant Director of the Honors College & Assistant Professor of English

Dr. Joshua Hren earned his B.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy and English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In addition to teaching an upper-level English Creative Writing class "The Art of Fiction," Dr. Hren has been teaching the following Honors courses: Homer and Virgil, Art and Scholasticism, and Honors Thesis. He can often be found on campus in the evenings walking with his three children.

Q. What was the most influential class you ever taken? A. ​"The Quarrel Between Poetry and Philosophy,” which was t​he first graduate course I took ​while I was working in outreach to the homeless in Milwaukee. We read The Republic and Nietzsche, Heidegger and Simone Weil. We chased after the nature of poetry. Does it grant us knowledge, or beauty, or just entertainment and diversion? Does it lead us closer to or further from the truth? Why are so many philosophical accounts of poetry impoverished, limited, oversimplified? Can poetry be philosophical? I am haunted by these questions still.

Q. What makes the Honors College distinctive from other Great Books Programs? A. The Honors College encourages a love of wisdom that wears no pomposity. The Honors College has very little temptation to the pretentious and prideful; the Benedictine Catholicity of the school perpetually reminds us that humility is greater than honor, and the great books that we read make us sober about our smallness. Practically speaking, we offer students who out of necessity must prepare for a career, especially those interested in the Business and Medical fields, a sustained encounter with eternal questions . . . and the prospect of genuine answers.

Q. What is one piece of advice you would give to students? A. “Dispensing advice is a perilous task if one takes it and it doesn’t work.” *Laughter* Given the nature of the Honors College, it is easy to be overwhelmed even though our studies are approached slowly in order to penetrate the depth of their wisdom and beauty. There is difficulty in understanding the parts without the whole, and students should learn how to surrender their lack of understanding and be okay with feelings of suspension while engaging with unfamiliar texts as we move towards a fuller comprehension of the whole.

Q. If you could live inside any story that you have read (not written!), what would it be and why? A. Unfortunately, I do not have a choice! I already live in The Brothers Karamazov! *laughing* Dostoevsky goes a long way toward dramatizing that quarrel between poetry and philosophy. The novel is by turns very funny and deeply sad, and it lends puffs of palpability to big questions: What is justice and can human beings mete it out? What is mercy? What do we owe to one another? What is this human nature that is capable of sublimity and wickedness at once?

Excellence and Virtue

Honors Institute Alumni and Student News

It is with great joy and excitement that we announce...

The Engagement of Julius Kovács and Melody McClure (Honors '14) in Spring 2019

The Engagement of Cofield Hildburn (BAC '18) and Helen Ginski (Honors '19) in Summer 2019

The Engagement of Mark Trompeter (Honors '19) and Bonnie Aberley (Honors '18) in Summer 2019

The Engagement of Cameron Jones (BAC '19) and Jessica Camano (Honors '18) in Summer 2019

The Marriage of Joshua Brand (BAC '18) and Emma Piazza (Honors '18) celebrated at St.Michaels in Livermore, CA on Sep. 21st, 2019

Dr. Joseph Wysocki (Honors College Director & Honors '04) and Jeanne Wysocki welcomed their 5th child, Benedict Placid Wysocki, into the world on Sep. 26th, 2019

The Marriage of Cameron Baggett (BAC '19) and Emma Talbot (Honors '19) celebrated at The Abbey Bacilica in Belmont, NC on Oct. 5th, 2019

The Marriage of John Wilson (Honors '18) and Mary Jacobeen (Honors '18) celebrated at St. Timothy in Fairfax, VA on Nov. 30th 2019


Marriage? Baptism or birth announcement? Exciting career update? Email your news to Lily at lilymullen@abbey.bac.edu

The Honors College is grateful for the generous support of Thomas Kelly, Strategic Sourcing and Expense Solutions, and Strategic Supply Chain Solutions
In Fine

*Special thanks to Ian Dornan (Honors '20), Katie Miller (Honors '20), Patricia Kolakowski (Honors '22), Hannah Matousek (Honors '23) for contributing photos as well as John Paul Hamilton and Theresa Wilson for their reflections on Italy