Cura Personalis: Carol Abromaitis, Ph.D.

A closer look at a member of the Loyola family, considering the whole person: Carol Abromaitis, Ph.D., professor of English

Carol “Sue” Abromaitis, Ph.D., was born and raised in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood. She attended Seton High School and College of Notre Dame of Maryland, where she majored in English. After completing her master’s degree and Ph.D. work in 18th Century literature at the University of Maryland, College Park, Abromaitis came to Loyola in January of 1962, where she first taught American literature in the evening school.

Forty-eight years later, she sat down with Loyola magazine to talk about some of her favorite things, teaching and literature among them.

Are college kids any different today than they were, say, in 1962?

It’s a generalization, but I think kids are as smart as, as average as, and as dumb as they’ve ever been. Obviously the socioeconomics have changed drastically. When I first came to Loyola, I was teaching Baltimore commuters, all male, and they were mostly from Baltimore’s solid middle-class. Loyola then was able to attract some of the best and brightest Baltimore had to offer. They came from the local parishes and were mostly graduates of the local Catholic high schools. Today, that’s almost all changed, and we now attract upper-middle-class kids from all over the country.

Have the values, goals. and work ethic changed?

Frankly, no. When you teach a core course, of course you get the students who see the course as something they need to overcome. My favorite students in core courses tend to be science students because they are typically very organized, and they view a task as something to be accomplished in a timely manner. But you do see the whole gamut. Today, students do see—most of them—a connection between the coursework and the money they’re paying. They still have that obligation to their families, and many of them want their parents to be proud of them.

How has your faith—your Catholicism—informed your scholarship?

I don’t think you can live a bifurcated life. I try, insofar as possible, to be an emblem of my faith. I do think that what you are is how you act. For example, I’ve been active in the formation of the Catholic studies program at Loyola. That work is part of the Catholic intellectual tradition that’s central if Loyola is to maintain its integrity. Throughout my profession, I’ve become much more aware of the centrality for great writers of what we call the “sacramental vision”—that vision of life which is both an integrated vision of body and soul and a celebratory vision of the ultimate goodness of creation. So, yes, my faith has very much influenced me and my work.

Can appreciating literature make a difference in how people live their lives?

When you think about it, you only have two eyes, two ears, and 70 years—if you’re lucky—to live, to observe, to meet people. Literature opens up worlds you’ll never travel to, people you’ll never meet, ages you’ve never lived in. If you are a reader, you come to appreciate the incredible, authentic diversity of God’s creation. It makes you at once humble at your own limitedness and happy that you’ve been able to transcend that limitedness. I think that’s what literature does. And it’s fun! It really is fun.

What makes you happiest?

Call it God’s will, sheer luck, serendipity—whatever—I’m happiest that I was able to balance my professional life with my marriage. I’m also happy about the great people I was able to hire in my eight years as department chair. I’m happy about the classes I’ve taught and the wonderful students I’ve had. For all the differences, disappointments, and so on, it has been a remarkably blessed life, a truly blessed life.