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Author, violins and bagpipes celebrate new colleges

September 27th, 2010 Posted in Arts and Life

By Alex Thatcher

LOGAN—Author Thomas Cahill helped celebrate of the creation of two new colleges at Utah State University with a speech Tuesday at the convocation of the new USU Caine College of the Arts and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Freshman Matt Earl, USU’s first bagpipe major, opened the convocation in the Kent Concert Hall with a bagpipe solo, followed by music by USU’s resident Fry Street quartet.

“The splitting of the college of HASS is intended to position both new colleges for greater success and visibility,” said Craig Jessop, dean of the new arts college. “But we will maintain connection between both because humanities, social sciences and art are connected.”

The colleges were created July 1 when the former College of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences, USU’s largest academic unit, was split.

The new sister colleges celebrated by inviting Cahill, the author of several books, Including How the Irish Saved Civilization, to speak. Cahill, a New Yorker, has taught at Queens College, Fordham University and Seton Hall University. “He is best known for taking a broad scope of complex history and making it accessible, illuminating, as well as extremely entertaining,” Jessop said.

Cahill addressed a number of periods and figures of the past. “In order to understand history,” he explained, “one must live inside ancient words and then bring those words to the present.”

Cahill told how he got close to St. Patrick. “St. Patrick’s writing had few connectives and no transitions and it made his history hard to understand,” he said. “But I began to put myself in his shoes and I realized that to himself and to his mother, he probably wasn’t saint.

“I learned that as a boy he wasn’t interested in Christianity like his dad,” Cahill said. “He was kidnapped as a teenager and became a slave and often went hungry and naked and witnessed the sacrificing of humans by the slave drivers.”

Cahill compared Patrick’s experience to that of American hostages in Iran. “In these circumstances, Patrick began to change and began to pray to the God of his parents. He escaped but was never the same. He brought the Gospel to Ireland and convinced Ireland to give up the slave trade.”

Cahill brought other historic figures to life, such as Alexander the Great, David of the Bible, Francis of Assisi and more. He described their feelings and experiences in a poetic and artistic manner and helped the audience understand why they did what they did.

“I would like each reader of my books to be able to close the book and know what it was like to be these people,” Cahill said.

Cahill concluded his remarks with a lesson he had learned in his years of studying history. “We need peacemakers and lovers far more than we need generals and politicians,” he said. “For peacemakers and lovers are the ultimate needs of all of us.”

Senior Caitlyn Ellis, a Liberal Arts major, enjoyed Cahill’s remarks. “I thought it was really entertaining,” she said. “He is terribly knowledgeable. I especially enjoyed his references to Greek and Latin which I will be studying this year.”

Barbara Lutz, a former USU staff member, was invited to the convocation along with her friend Sherrie Wagner. Both enjoyed the event. “I could visualize through his delivery the place and scene he was describing,” said Lutz. “Everything was stimulating.”

“His fluency of language flowed like butter,” Wagner added.

“I believe the splitting of the college of HASS was very smart and clever,” said Lutz. “The college of HASS has provided this community with rich culture, more so than any other university. And with the forming of the two colleges they will continue to bring humanities, social sciences and art together. They are on the right track.”


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