Recent awards recognize work of Cushwa Center and its director

Author: Philip Byers

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The fall semester brought news of major awards for the Cushwa Center and for director Kathleen Sprows Cummings. 

In October, Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters announced Cummings as the recipient of the 2021 Sheedy Excellence in Teaching Award—the highest teaching honor in the 20 departments that constitute the college. Colleagues, current students, and alumni wrote in support of her nomination. Established in 1970 in honor of Rev. Charles E. Sheedy, C.S.C. (who served as college dean from 1951–1969), the prestigious award recognizes a faculty member who has “sustained excellence in research and instruction over a wide range of courses” and who has been shown to “motivate and enrich students using innovative and creative teaching methods while influencing teaching and learning within the department, college, and university.” 

Cummings accepted the award at a gathering of the college faculty on December 7 at the Morris Inn. 2020 Sheedy recipient Pamela Wojcik introduced Cummings, describing her work as director of the Cushwa Center, her interventions as a scholar and public intellectual, her contributions to the American studies and history departments and the gender studies program, and especially her teaching of courses including “Faith and Feminism,” “Notre Dame and America,” and “Sanctity and Society,” all of which have earned praise from admiring students. After Cummings delivered an address, the faculty and other guests convened for a celebratory reception.   

In November, the American Catholic Historical Association (ACHA) selected the Cushwa Center to receive its Distinguished Service Award. The award acknowledges exceptional achievement by those who “promote study and research of the history of Catholicism broadly conceived.” Recent recipients have included the Trappists (2016), the U.S. National Park Service (2017), and the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives at the Catholic University of America (2018).  

The ACHA prize committee called the center “the premier resource for researching and promoting the history of American Catholicism” and gave special mention to its “insightful seminars, major conferences . . . publications, and substantial research funding for scholars.” The committee also commended its three former directors—Jay Dolan, R. Scott Appleby, and Tim Matovina—as well as Cummings and celebrated recent international efforts, especially “cataloging and studying archives in Rome.” Cummings received the award on behalf of the center during a January 2022 presentation ceremony held via Zoom.

This article appears in the spring 2022 issue of the American Catholic Studies Newsletter