by Kara Hansen
LAWRENCE — University of Kansas students at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center here don’t have to go far to find someone sympathetic to their academic grind.
In fact, they’ve only to look to the center’s director, Father Steve Beseau.
There’s a good reason why he can relate to their travails. Until recently, he was a student himself, working to complete a doctoral dissertation.
Father Beseau began work on a doctorate in February 2005, living in Rome as a full-time student at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas before being assigned to the St. Lawrence Center in February 2006. He finished his dissertation in September 2010 and defended it in Rome months later.
“It [kept] me very close to the students because I have been a student myself these past years,” said Father Beseau. “It has also really helped me enter into relationships with the professors at the university because there is a greater understanding between us about the work each of us is doing.”
Father Beseau chose St. Thomas Aquinas, commonly referred to as the Angelicum, in part because its program allowed students to reside off-site while completing their dissertation. That meant that Father Beseau, already director of the St. Lawrence Center, could fulfill his duties in Lawrence while continuing to make strides toward completing the biggest paper of his life.
“The traditional route is to complete your coursework and then have two full years to work on your dissertation,” said Father Beseau.
But he only had one year to fully devote to his dissertation. So he’s spent the last five years working on his dissertation here, there and everywhere.
“I would carve out time in the morning and late at night, and took vacation days to devote a large piece of time to studying and writing,” said Father Beseau. “It was difficult to write while being the director at St. Lawrence but, overall, the process has been great and very enjoyable.”
The topic is an unusual one.
“When I was at a conference at Notre Dame in 2001, a philosopher presented a paper on magnanimity, and it was excellent. I thought [that] if I ever had a chance to do further study, that’s what I would do,” said Father Beseau.
And so he did. Father Beseau’s dissertation is entitled “Magnanimity as an Interpretive Key for Moral Catechesis of Young Adults.”
The virtue of magnanimity is often overshadowed by more heralded ones like patience and humility. But magnanimity is the virtue of being great of mind and heart. Considered to be the crowning virtue by the philosopher Aristotle, Winston Churchill also once said, “In war: resolution. In defeat: defiance. In victory: magnanimity. In peace: goodwill.”
“It’s a forgotten virtue no one ever talks about,” said Father Beseau. “Philosophers cover it, but it’s been a very neglected virtue in theology. You would be hard-pressed to find anything on magnanimity in theology.”
The center’s students showed their appreciation for Father Beseau’s work by throwing a graduation party for him just before the Christmas break.