Photo by Lee Pellegrini

Canisius Professor of Theology James Keenan, S.J., director of the Boston College Jesuit Institute, is the 2018 recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Award, given annually by Boston College students in the prestigious honor society.

Each year, Phi Beta Kappa students submit nominations for outstanding teachers who have positively influenced their experiences at BC, either inside or outside the classroom. Faculty are selected for the award based on the cumulative nominations from students over multiple years.

"I am honored to be selected by the students to be the BC Phi Beta Kappa Teacher of the Year," said Fr. Keenan prior to the PBK's annual induction ceremony. "I join a fine, impressive list of great BC faculty. "I am looking forward to the ceremony so as to congratulate the new inductees and to thank the members themselves."

A faculty member since 2005, Fr. Keenan—who was the Gasson Visiting Professor from 2003-05—is co-director of the Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program, an integrated honors educational experience for select undergraduates of exceptional academic talent and leadership potential. An expert in moral theology, he has taught courses such as Virtue Ethics, Twentieth Century Catholic Moral Theology, and Ethical Issues of HIV/AIDS.

In 2014, he was appointed as director of the Jesuit Institute, which supports the Jesuit, Catholic mission and character of Boston College through collaborations with BC's schools, faculty and programs to promote personal research, academic interchange and inquiry into questions that emerge at the intersection of faith and culture.  

Students who nominated Fr. Keenan praised his ability and willingness to engage with students, whether as teacher, mentor, or counselor.

"It is difficult to make a 60-person ethics class truly interactive, but he managed to do so with ease," said a student of Fr. Keenan's HIV/AIDS and Ethics class. "Without incentive for a participation grade or consequence of any sort, students were eager to speak about the readings and react to Fr. Keenan's insights. He brought so much to the class through speaking about his own research and advocacy in the field in a way that inspired many of us."

This student also pointed to Fr. Keenan's participation in a panel discussion of Jesuit perspectives on sexual assault as an example of "his dedication to helping students tackle truly difficult issues we face at BC."

Another student called Fr. Keenan "my greatest mentor at Boston College," citing his advising role through the Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program and his leadership of the Jesuit Institute, among other qualities. "He is the pinnacle of a faculty member committed to distinguished research and novel contributions in his field, alongside care and commitment to his undergraduate students."

—University Communications | June 2018