President announces Antone Fund for Academic Excellence grant recipients

Photo: The annual Nicaragua service trip. John and Kitty Rok received the Special Projects Award to assist in securing the future of the long-running trips.

President Jane Gerety, RSM, has announced the latest recipients of grant awards from the Antone Fund for Academic Excellence: Dr. Timothy Neary, associate professor and chairman of the Department of History; Dr. Emily Colbert-Cairns, associate professor in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages; and together, John Rok, associate professor in the Department of Religious and Theological Studies and Kitty Rok, senior lecturer in the Department of Education.

Neary and Colbert-Cairns received the Recognition Award and the Roks received the Special Projects Award.

Established in 2004, the Antone Fund for Academic Excellence recognizes and supports faculty who engage in activities that enhance their ability to be premier teachers and scholars, and advance student scholarship.

Recognition Award

Neary received the Recognition Award for his book, “Crossing Parish Boundaries: Race, Sports and Catholic Youth in Chicago, 1914-1954” (University of Chicago Press, 2016), which challenges many of our widely accepted understandings about U.S. race relations in northern cities during the mid-20th century.

Building upon and complicating John T. McGreevy’s groundbreaking scholarship two decades ago on the subject of the Catholic encounter with race in the 20th century urban north, Neary reveals the history of Bishop Bernard Sheil’s Catholic Youth Organization, which brought together thousands of young people of all races and religions from Chicago’s racially segregated neighborhoods to take part in sports and educational programming. Once widely understood that mid-century, working-class, white ethnic Catholics were among the most virulent racists, “Crossing Parish Boundaries” shows that’s not the whole story.

Recognition Award

Colbert-Cairns received the Recognition Award for the publication of “Esther in Early Modern Iberia and the Sephardic Diaspora: Queen of the Conversas” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

In her book, Colbert-Cairns explores Queen Esther as an idealized woman in Iberia, as well as a Jewish heroine for conversos in the Sephardic Diaspora in the 16th and 17th centuries. The biblical Esther – the Jewish woman who marries the King of Persia and saves her people – was contested in the cultures of early modern Europe, authored as a symbol of conformity as well as resistance. At once a queen and minority figure under threat, for a changing Iberian and broader European landscape, Esther was compelling and relatable precisely because of her hybridity. She was an early modern globetrotter and border transgressor.

Colbert-Cairns analyzes the many retellings of the biblical heroine that were composed in a turbulent early modern Europe. These narratives reveal national undercurrents where religious identity was transitional and fluid, thus problematizing the fixed notion of national identity within a particular geographic location. This volume instead proposes a model of a Sephardic nationality that existed beyond geographical borders.

Special Projects Award

The Roks received the Special Projects Award to assist in securing the future of the long-running Nicaragua service trips and to subsidize orientation visits for faculty/staff interested in sustaining this service learning program.

Coordinated annually since 2012 through the Office of Community Service, the Nicaragua service trip is run through Mustard Seed Communities, an organization that works with the local Catholic church to serve the needs of abandoned or orphaned children with mental and physical disabilities. Participants work with children and young adults at Hogar Belen-Diriamba Orphanage while staying in a dorm-style mission cottage on the campus. A majority of the orphanage’s residents cannot speak, so participants communicate with the children through other means.

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