Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 31, 2010
Philosopher spans religious spectrum
Retiring from St. Joseph's College after 30 years, Joseph Buijs plans to complete a book on world views
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Some 30 years ago, Joseph Buijs arrived in Edmonton with a young family in tow to assume a full-time academic position at St. Joseph's College at the University of Alberta.
He was fortunate because at the time there were literally no full-time philosophy jobs open in Canada. At St. Joe's, he became the first full-time lay faculty member the college ever hired.
"I have always considered the appointment providential, although the reason or purpose still remains a mystery to me," Buijs told about 30 college and university staff attending a retirement reception at the University's Faculty Club May 25.
Nevertheless, the appointment has allowed Buijs to follow in the shadow and footsteps of some of the greats in philosophy - Socrates, Moses Maimonides and Jean-Paul Sartre - and to direct others onto the same path.
"It has been and continues to be a satisfying challenge - made more so by the students I have had the privilege to teach and by the colleagues with whom I have had the privilege to become acquainted over the years," Buijs said at the reception.
Buijs' specialization is medieval philosophy and more particularly on the Jewish medieval thinker Moses Maimonides, who has a similar position in the Jewish tradition as St. Thomas Aquinas had in the Christian Catholic tradition.
STUDIED IN ROME
Buijs holds a bachelor of philosophy from the Pontificium Atheneum Selesianum in Rome and a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Western Ontario.
He taught philosophy in London, Ottawa and Saskatoon before coming to Edmonton in 1980.
The father of four has taught 10 different courses at St. Joseph's College plus a number of reading courses, as well as three basic philosophy courses at the University of Alberta's philosophy department.
The courses he most enjoys teaching include Christian existentialism, the philosophy of religion and, more recently, a course on world views he introduced at the college.
Buijs was promoted to associate professor in 1984 and was the first to receive tenure at the college in 1987. In 2008, he was named a full professor.
His academic work includes editing two books-Maimonides, A Collection of Critical Essays and Christian Marriage Today: Growth or Breakdown-and writing 16 articles which have been published in scholarly journals or books.
WIDE RANGE OF WRITINGS
His articles range from treatments of Maimonides and Aquinas to the relationship of religion, science and philosophy to atheism, to teaching as a profession or vocation.
At the reception, his friend and colleague Paul Flaman highlighted Buijs' emphasis on teaching and his positive relationship with the U of A's philosophy department, which he said has contributed to the university's hiring a number of St. Joe's College faculty to teach some of its courses.
"Joe has been a genuine philosopher, lover of wisdom, not only academically but also in practice," Flaman said.
When Buijs began work with St. Joseph's College, it had 800 students enrolled in 27 courses in philosophy and theology. Today more than 2,100 students are taking courses at the college.
"Joe is our link to this recent past and a witness to this college's development since 1980," said college president Father Timothy Scott, the fifth president under whom Buijs has served.
"He represents and stands at the forefront of the expanded role of lay people in a whole variety of ways at the college."
In his 30 years at St. Joe's, Buijs has seen the university change in many ways.
"In terms of the students, I think over that time the university certainly has managed to attract a higher calibre of students," he said in an interview prior to the reception.
For one, the level of writing of the students taking his courses has improved. And he said today's student is much more motivated than in the past, perhaps due to economic pressures and competition.
In terms of the university itself, Buijs said he has seen an increasing emphasis on teaching, but "not at the exclusion of research."
That's fine with St. Joe's, which Buijs says prides itself on its teaching performance.
Despite his official retirement, Buijs still plans to teach, research and write in the coming years. In January, after six months of leisure, he is scheduled to be back at St. Joe's to teach a course on contemporary atheism. He also has a couple of projects on the go, including completing a book on contemporary world views.
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