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Dan Luby

Dan Luby to Retire After Nearly 40 Years at UD

Dan LubyDate published: May 8, 2019

Affiliate Assistant Professor of Theology Dan Luby, S.T.L., S.T.D., has taught at the University of Dallas since 1980, and will retire from full-time teaching at the end of this semester.

“Retiring from full-time teaching at UD is a bittersweet experience,” said Luby. “I am excited at much of what retirement will mean — freedom from the eternal nagging of the gradebook and the emotional labor of grading; a daily life without administrative duties, endless deadlines, and early meetings after late-night classes; time to think and read and explore what may turn out to be blind alleys just because they look interesting; opportunities to be more involved in the day-to-day of my nearest and dearest.”

At the same time, however, he is “already experiencing the ‘anticipatory grief’ of leaving behind a very satisfying sense of community and collaboration with colleagues and students; being ‘on the inside’ of decisions and new directions for an institution about which I care a lot; interacting with a dazzling cast of fascinating, bright, big-hearted characters and hearing their ever-illuminating stories.”

He is not entirely sure, yet, how he will spend his retirement, aside from still teaching one class in the fall.

“My initial hope is to start with very intentional and deliberate listening to my life and heart and the people closest to me to hear how God might be guiding me. I have no doubt that such guidance is forthcoming,” he said. “This is a liminal moment for me, and as someone who talks endlessly in my teaching about the importance and fruitfulness of such moments, I want to be sure I approach it as the grace-filled opportunity it is. I don't want to preempt God's quiet whisperings by jumping into a new all-consuming commitment until I have sat with some silence and prayer.”

He does hope to serve, in some way, the materially poor.

“I kind of live in a bubble on that score, and have often been too busy to enter into such foot-washing ministry on a regular basis,” he said. “That excuse will no longer stand. It’s time I closed that gap.”

In October 2016, after 36 years of dedicated instruction and service, Luby reflected on how education has changed in his time at UD — and how education in ministry thrives with these changes.

What has kept drawing you in during your impressive teaching career?

DL: The thing I find most compelling about this work is the opportunity to be able to listen to stories of people’s faith that are so concrete and real and so evidential, so persuasive about God’s presence in the world. To have the opportunity to be in the room when that happens is just a real gift.

It’s a gift that surely keeps on giving in both your life and the lives of your students.

DL: My deepest conviction about teaching is that if it — when it — works, it makes a connection to people’s lives. I always tell my students that the great theological question is, “So what?” If people are not able to make that connection, it can become a kind of abstract exercise that’s unrelated to their lives. I think that’s the perennial spiritual temptation. Theology and ministry formation at their best are ways to help people enrich their faith for the worship of God and the sanctification of his people.

You get to see students make those connections right before your eyes.

DL: I get to see that all the time. Sometimes I see it in a classroom, sometimes on a computer screen.

What connections have you seen people draw in the online courses?

DL: I was reading a student post in one of my the online classes, and the student told an amazing story about her experience with medical hardships and healing that were not only moving and full of grace but also perfectly apt for the Christological reflection I had asked them to connect to.

Pope Francis has called the internet a “gift from God.” How do you think the Neuhoff Institute for Ministry & Evangelization reflects this?

DL: In some ways, education is more exciting when it’s through technology, in spite of the fact that I’ve been teaching online for 10 years, because it’s unexpected. I expect it in the classroom. I’m still sort of surprised when it happens on a computer screen, but I can witness the impact it has on students who are all over the country. There can be a student who lives in Central Texas, being responded to by a student from Arkansas and a student from New Jersey and a student on the West Coast. I am literally watching the Gospel expand. That’s pretty exciting.

What are your hopes for when a student finishes one of your courses or programs?

DL: In general, my hope would be that the student would leave more convinced of God’s love and mercy and presence than they were when they came in, and that that conviction would bear fruit in doing the Gospel, whether that be in some kind of professional capacity in ministry or just as a rank-and-file member of the church. Those are the things that I would really hope for: that their faith would be enriched, and that almost by definition, if their faith is authentically enriched, it’s going to bear fruit in service.

What have you found to be most special about the Neuhoff Institute for Ministry & Evangelization in particular?

DL: It’s cliché to say that it’s about the people — but it is. Our faculty brings a lot of on-the-ground pastoral experience informed by high-quality theological education and scholarly practice. We have a really good blend and a strong connection to the work that people are hoping to do. Frankly, we do a really good job of embodying the values that we try to communicate. I love the image of accompaniment that Pope Francis talks about in his exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel.” I think we do that well. That’s something that characterizes our approach: that accompaniment is an important value.

What makes the Neuhoff Institute for Ministry & Evangelization so dynamic?

DL: The community of the school includes this three-pronged orientation of service with academic education, continuing education and the ministry conference, working closely with the local church. Those things rub off on and enrich each other. All of us are consultants to one another about various things, and we utilize people’s expertise from one area to another. Collaboration is a really important value for the church and for our ministry.

You aren’t just the gas station who fuels people up, and they go away. You’re Triple A, and you go help people. You pick up hitchhikers.

DL: There’s a sense of community that we experience within the faculty and staff that extends to students. I don’t know what it’s like in other departments. We have a small number of undergraduate majors, but they’re here all the time. We try to foster pastoral practitioners in action. Things like our Pancake Lunch and the Cajun Dinner are features of the way we operate that are significant, that are more integrated than I think they might be in some other context.

In the recent note Luby sent to his friends and colleagues regarding his retirement, he wrote, “I leave with a deep sense of gratitude for friends and colleagues who have enriched my life in a thousand directions. In the classroom, passing in the hall, at meetings large and small, formal and pop-up, sipping wine and dining on UD’s apparently infinite store of cheese and crackers, I have been challenged and affirmed, illuminated and educated. Most of all, I have been graced to enter into the sacred space of sharing stories with fellow pilgrims in search of our Heart’s Desire, the recognition of which is its own blessed reward.”