Teacher of the Year brings striped socks and magic to the classroom

Graham McAleer, Ph.D., wins most coveted teaching award at Loyola

“Love the socks,” say his student evaluations. It would be hard to miss this philosophy professor’s brightly striped socks.

His students also notice that he is a snappy dresser. After all, he orders his vintage shirts and shoes off of Etsy.

But what earned Graham McAleer, Ph.D., the most coveted teaching award at Loyola is his teaching style, and his ability to bring topics alive for his students.

“He is really a magic worker in the classroom,” says Rick Boothby, Ph.D., professor of philosophy and department chair. “I’ve sometimes thought that he has an advantage with his Scottish accent, but I’m sure that is minor compared to the things that he knows how to do with them.”

What he does is take concrete, contemporary examples from the Wall Street Journal or New York Times and helps the students see how the topic of the class relates.

When course registration opened for the fall, his class called The Morals and Politics of the Lord of the Rings filled rapidly.

“He’s very interactive. He looks for them to really engage, and poses question after question. I wouldn’t say he’s entirely Socratic, but he’s very much a craftsman in the classroom,” Boothby says. “He gives students the sense that it is really grounded in reality. These aren’t just castles in the air.”

When McAleer was named this year’s Harry W. Rodgers III Distinguished Teacher of the Year at the Loyola’s Deans’ Symposium on March 21, the award had a special poignancy. The namesake and donor to the award, Harry Rodgers, a 1950 graduate of Loyola, passed away Feb. 27.

McAleer, who has taught at Loyola for 17 years, including spending two years running Loyola’s program in Leuven, Belgium, was certainly worthy of the honor.

“His scholarship is a fully integral part of his life as a Catholic, his life as a father, as a husband, as a citizen,” Boothby said. “Graham is a very successfully integrated person.”

A native of England whose parents are Scottish, McAleer had never studied in a traditional American undergraduate classroom before he came to Loyola, says his wife, Jennifer DeRose. Still, he has a passion for undergraduate teaching.

“The commitment to the undergraduate experience and the institutional commitment to philosophy for all undergraduates is something that he really values and he feels contributes a lot to his work satisfaction,” said DeRose.

The couple have three daughters: Julia, 16; Charlotte, 14; and Beatrice, 12; and two cats, Otis and Barnes.

For years after he first started at Loyola, McAleer used to wear his academic gown as professors do in Europe when they give exams. He would carry a pile of exam books as he walked across campus in his gown. His wife says he has been considering bringing back the tradition.

“Graham really is not just a great teacher. He’s a really outstanding scholar,” Boothby says.

“His scholarly interests and activity really inform his teaching. He brings them together, which is a Holy Grail in our business. Often our specialties are so arcane that we don’t get really integrated with our teaching, but Graham really does that.”