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Saint Leo University Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies

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Highlights on recent Saint Leo University faculty accomplishments and contributions in teaching and learning.

Dr. Karen Hannel of the College of Arts and Sciences and her husband, Dr. Eric Hannel, an adjunct instructor with Saint LeoHistorical research by Dr. Karen Hannel of the College of Arts and Sciences and her husband, Dr. Eric Hannel, an adjunct instructor with Saint Leo, prompted the state of Florida to approve the placement of an official marker to note that a vibrant township once existed north of University Campus in the 1800s. The town of Chipco was a trading post established by white settlers and was named for a Seminole chief who actually lived nearby, but separately, with some members of his tribe for a time after the mid-1850s. The white town grew to have a nearby railway link, lumber-planing mill, grist mill, school, and post office, along with farms. The Pasco County (FL) town reached the peak of its commercial prominence in the 1880s, but disappeared by 1909 after a series of economic reversals. Chief Chipco and his band had long since moved to a different locale in mid-Florida, and the chief died in 1881 at more than 100 years of age, according to a newspaper account. The Hannels continue to research this settlement, as its trajectory illustrates so much about the racial interactions, intermittent wars, and economic developments of 19th-century Florida.


Dr. Iain Duffy, a microbiologist and member of the science faculty at University Campus, is president of the Florida Academy of Sciences and is now in the second year of a two-year term. The academy is comprised of scholars from the life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, computer and mathematical sciences, and science teaching, and publishes a quarterly journal.


Dr. Leon Mohan and Dr. Dene WilliamsonDr. Leon Mohan and Dr. Deneˊ Williamson of the Tapia College of Business were published in late 2019 in the International Journal of Sport, Exercise and Physical Education with their article “Youth Sport Participation as a Result of Social Identity Theory.” The article describes survey research conducted in a South Florida city with youths involved with sports through various community organizations. In particular, the researchers zeroed in on children ages 9 to 13, who were primarily African American and Hispanic, to see what role social factors played in getting and keeping the youths involved in sports. The short-term objective was to help associations find influences that can be maintained to get and keep children physically active. Sports that parents and guardians were familiar with, sports played by famous athletes, and sports played by friends and peers were motivating influences. The business professors included work by undergraduate student John-Paul West in their research and publication.


Dr. Matthew TapieDr. Matthew Tapie, theology faculty member and director of the Saint Leo University Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies, was invited in February by Spring Hill College in Alabama to deliver a talk on a particularly difficult point in Catholic and Jewish relations. Since 2018, Tapie has been speaking in academic settings and published in academic theological journals on the new controversy about the forced religious conversion of a young boy named Edgardo Mortaro in Bologna, Italy, in 1858. The child was being raised by a Jewish family, in accordance with their own faith, when the Catholic Church learned the boy secretly had been given a Catholic baptism when he was an infant and facing illness. A maid employed by the family performed the baptism without permission from or the knowledge of the baby’s parents. The woman presumably was leaning on her own Catholic teaching as motivation and feared for the soul of the baby if he did not recover. The boy was forcibly removed from his home on the order of Pope Pius IX when the Church eventually learned of this, and despite an international scandal, the church never backed down and instead raised the child.

The case was known chiefly by academics in recent history, but is the subject of the film The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortaro, which was made and directed by Steven Spielberg, but not widely released.

Around the time of the film’s completion, a theologian wrote an academic article that caused hurt feelings and astonishment anew among Catholics and Jews by defending Pope Pius IX and aspects of church law. Tapie’s recent and continuing work on this helps academics and others to become informed about the facts of the 162-year-old case and Catholic reaction today.


Dr. Moneque Walker-PickettDr. Moneque Walker-Pickett, professor and associate chair of the undergraduate criminal justice program, was selected for a prestigious fellowship program in higher education. She is one of only 38 professionals to be included in the 2020-2021 American Council on Education Fellows Program. The objective of the program is to provide learning opportunities that condense years of practical higher education experience into a curriculum of a single year. Fellows receive strategic planning training, make numerous visits to other campuses, and take part in interactive sessions. Upon completion of the program, fellows return to their own campuses better equipped to address evolving challenges in higher education. Walker-Pickett joins a diverse fellowship class comprised of individuals from Georgetown University, Purdue University, the U.S. Air Force Academy, among other institutions. In addition to holding a doctorate in sociology, Walker-Pickett holds a law degree and worked previously as an attorney. She became a full-time member of the Saint Leo University faculty at University Campus in August 2012.