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Mercyhurst honors Daniel McFee for teaching excellence

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Daniel McFee, Ph.D.

Who better to receive the coveted Mercyhurst University Teaching Excellence Award than one whose passion for teaching is as vibrant today as the day he realized he wanted to be a teacher?

With parents as educators, Daniel McFee, Ph.D., associate professor of religious studies, was introduced to the profession early in life. Both Evan and Shirley McFee taught at Bowling Green State University — McFee’s alma mater — for 30 years.

Quite simply, he said, they were “fantastic” teachers. And as if they weren’t enough, McFee remembers other role models who instilled in him a passion for teaching.  

“My best teachers opened the world to me,” he said. “I hope that I have done that in some small way for my students.”

McFee has nearly two decades of teaching experience in higher education. In addition to teaching religious studies, he is also the current chair of the department. He was hired by Mercyhurst as a tenure-track faculty member in August 2002.

“I am both thrilled and humbled by this award,” he said. “I am proud of my achievements and to be part of a university that has so many excellent teachers.”

As a co-founder and co-director of the Evelyn Lincoln Institute for Ethics & Society, along with associate professor of philosophy Kevin Sullivan, Ph.D., McFee has had a hand in bringing dozens of influential speakers to campus. Their focus on ethics in connection to business, the environment and technology has helped enrich university dialogue about ethical decision-making.

“I see ethics as a discipline oriented toward how we ought to go about the task of living just, compassionate and engaged lives,” said McFee. “All areas of our public and private lives are shaped by the ethical decisions that we make and that others have made for us. Thus, I think it is vital that educated adults reflect carefully and systematically on how they approach their lives and the choices they are making.”

McFee has played a role in keeping the Faculty-Led Study Abroad (FSAT) program alive and well. He has traveled overseas on five separate occasions, including once in 2005 on a three-week tour of Italy, Ireland and England.

McFee was also the facilitator of the Mercyhurst Science and Religion Public Outreach program for many years. Along with former biology professor Lew Lutton and others from the community, the organization helped bridge the divide between science and religion with several Erie area churches and community groups.

As a published author, McFee focuses on areas of science and religion, environmental ethics and ethics of emerging technologies. His work has been published in the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, The Journal of Religion, Theological Studies and Studies in Religion/Sciences Religious.

McFee graduated from Bowling Green in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in history and the classics. He went on to earn his master’s of divinity degree in religion and ethics from Duke University. In 2002, he earned his doctorate in religion and ethics from Marquette University.

What does McFee hope for the future of Mercyhurst? He wants to see continued growth and success of the ethics institute as well as a flourishing of liberal arts education.

“The ethics institute is inextricably tied to Mercyhurst’s commitment to the liberal arts. One of my goals at Mercyhurst includes keeping the liberal arts a vibrant part of our undergraduate curriculum,” said McFee.

The Teaching Excellence Award will be presented to McFee May 8 during an end-of-year reception for the Mercyhurst faculty.

Following are congratulatory remarks from colleagues:

As former chair, I had the opportunity and pleasure to see Daniel teach. He always conducted intellectually stimulating class presentations and discussions, always executed with grace, generosity, kindness and respect — the same virtues he expresses as department chair, as well.  The award couldn’t happen to a better guy and is utterly well deserved. Congratulations to him!

Thomas Forsthoefel

Professor of Religious Studies

Daniel is a remarkable teacher. He is energetic, engaged and challenging, and the students love him for it. They frequently tell me stories about his class while in mine, and when they do there is always another student who says, “I LOVE Dr. McFee! He’s AWESOME!” They do not go into many specifics, but they certainly come out of his classes transformed. He is so well versed in his field that he will step in to help out with a lecture if a colleague has an issue arise. He spends hours with students in his office helping them when they are struggling and always can find time for them. He is my role model. I have learned so much from him and am grateful to be in a department with him.

Verna Marina Ehret, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies

Director, Prestigious Awards Program

Dr. Daniel McFee is an exemplary teacher, dedicated scholar and exceptional colleague. His integrity, leadership and respect for the Mission, as well as his sense of humor and thoughtfulness, make him one of our finest faculty members. It is a joy to work with him.

Mary Hembrow Snyder, Ph.D.

Director, Center for Mercy and Catholic Studies

It is very clear to me that Daniel’s excellent teaching is honed by his remarkable knowledge of and engagement with scholars in the field of religious studies. He seamlessly weaves thoughts and theories from antiquity with contemporary ones, and as a result, Daniel’s students are better educated for it. Having both a keen mind and a generous spirit, Daniel is among the best of the best in our profession.

Richard W. McCarty, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Religious Studies

In his teaching, scholarship and his work with the ethics institute, my friend and colleague Daniel McFee embodies all the best elements of the ethical life. The Teaching Excellence Award is a fitting testament to his many contributions to our life at Mercyhurst.

Kevin Sullivan, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Philosophy

Co-director of the Evelyn Lincoln Institute for Ethics & Society