News & Features

Endowed Chair is a Natural Fit for Professor

From the Summer 2011 issue of LINK.

In many ways, it seems that Dr. Randy Rosenberg has prepared his entire life for the position he’ll take over this fall.

Rosenberg, an assistant professor of religion and philosophy at Fontbonne, has been named holder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Endowed Chair in Catholic Thought. It is a three-year appointment that Rosenberg said will allow him more opportunity to interact with the campus and the greater community, conduct research, and explore the university’s Catholic roots and their relevance in today’s world. He succeeds Dr. Jill Raitt, who completed her appointment at the end of the 2010-2011 school year.

“In many ways, when I read the description of the position, I felt like it was a very natural fit,” Rosenberg said. “The university was looking for someone who was well-versed in and could articulate the Catholic intellectual tradition and Catholic social teachings. They wanted someone who could connect the Catholic tradition across disciplines and had a strong passion for an interdisciplinary approach.”

Rosenberg fit the bill.

Much like Fontbonne University itself, Rosenberg has been shaped and molded by Catholic education and experience. He grew up in Florissant and attended St. Sabina School, then St. Louis University High School. His life and his interests, he said, were greatly influenced by his teachers and priests.

“I look back, and I realize I had great teachers,” he recalled. “They taught us to write well, and they sparked my interest in history and geography. The priest in our parish had a strong presence and took a real interest in us kids and our families.”

“I began to wonder what my contribution to the church should be. For me, the question was one of vocation: becoming a priest or a teacher were both viable options,” Rosenberg remembered.

Although he spent some time at Kenrick Seminary, further discerning his vocation, ultimately, Rosenberg decided to become a teacher. He earned a bachelor’s in philosophy from St. Louis University, then a masters’ in theology from Aquinas Institute of Theology while teaching at SLU High. He and his wife then moved to Boston, where he earned his doctorate in systematic theology from Boston College, a discipline he describes as faith seeking understanding.

“This discipline looks at Christian teachings and doctrines in light of the questions that arise in every age,” he described. “For example, how does one talk about creation in light of developments in science?”

Rosenberg and his wife spent five years in Boston, but the call to raise their two children around family led them back to St. Louis. He has taught at Fontbonne for three years.

Now Rosenberg looks forward to continuing his work on a larger scale. In 2008, he helped found the St. Louis Society for Catholic Theologians, a group made up of representatives from many Catholic institutions who gather at Fontbonne periodically to present papers and discuss, debate and connect.

“I envision Fontbonne as the center of theological collaboration,” Rosenberg said. But he also envisions making Catholic teaching and thought — and Fontbonne’s heritage, mission and vision — accessible to a new generation of students.

“I try to make my classes as meaningful as possible for students by asking them to ask questions for themselves,” he explained. “I want to provide a place for them to think about and ask fundamental human questions through a variety of media — text, film, novels and more.”

Rosenberg’s plans for the next three years include the production of regular podcasts, a blog and webpage, new interdisciplinary curriculum units, resources for students and organizations, student panel discussions, Endowed Chair seminars, and tours of Catholic sites around St. Louis for the general public.

“My experience in the classroom is that questions of faith and meaning, existence, God, death and suffering are all still meaningful to students,” he said. “They’re questions the students are willing and excited to discuss.”

And Rosenberg is excited to help answer them.

Learn more about studying history, philosophy and religion at Fontbonne.

Learn more about the annual Carondelet Lecture Series.