The U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Miguel Díaz will return to the University of Dayton as the new University Professor of Faith and Culture, according to a Nov. 7 university press release.
Díaz, who will assume the professorship on Nov. 16, succeeds historian David O’Brien, who retired this summer.
Paul Benson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said, “The people who have held this position in the past have reached a high level of distinction in their research and teaching.”
Díaz’s acceptance marks his return to UD, where he served as an assistant professor of religious studies from 1996 to 1998 in his first faculty position.
According to Benson, Díaz was hired in 1996, along with other faculty members, because UD’s theology doctoral program was just getting its start. During this period, Díaz taught a variety of both undergraduate and graduate courses.
Díaz has served as the ambassador to the Vatican City since 2009. Prior to Diaz’s position as ambassador to the Holy See, he taught theology at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, both of which are in Minnesota. He was also a board member of the Catholic Theological Society of America and is a former president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians.
In his new position, Díaz will teach one course a semester, varying between the undergraduate and graduate levels. Benson said the courses will regularly touch on Hispanic theology, an area Díaz is already trained in, and focus on the Catholic perspective of global issues. These issues will include global infectious disease, war and ethnic conflict around the world, Benson said.
“One of the reasons we’re so excited about Díaz’s coming here,” Benson said, “is that he will bring an international dimension to this position. In the past this position has focused on Catholic faith and American culture.”
Díaz’s experience as an ambassador will benefit both students and the religious studies department greatly, Benson said.
“Dr. Díaz believes very strongly in building bridges between diverse groups who are often pitted against one another,” Benson said.
Díaz’s students will learn invaluable skills in dialogue, diplomatic listening and negotiating with people who disagree with them, according to Benson.
Díaz will also be responsible for working with a number of faculty development programs that will help faculty become more involved in the Catholic and Marianist mission of UD, according to Benson.
Díaz’s work will include hosting a series of conferences and academic seminars on campus that will bring other scholars who have important views about Catholicism, American culture and world cultures to UD, Benson said. Díaz wants to involve UD as a central place for those discussions as a leading Catholic university, according to Benson.
“We are just thrilled to have him join our faculty,” Benson said. “He’s a tremendous colleague and I know he is very enthusiastic about joining UD’s faculty.”