Four Holy Cross Faculty Members Promoted to Professor

From left to right: Timothy Roach, Timothy Joseph '98, Renée Lynn Beard and Matthew Eggemeier. Photo by Avanell Chang

Educators in classics, physics, religious studies, and sociology and anthropology recognized for their scholarship.

Four Holy Cross faculty members have been promoted to the rank of professor this fall, in recognition of their scholarship, teaching, mentorship and service to the College.

Renée Lynn Beard, sociology and anthropology

Renée Lynn Beard, of the sociology and anthropology department, earned a B.A. in sociology from Boston College and a Ph.D. in medical sociology from the University of California, San Francisco. Her research focuses on medical sociology, social gerontology, illness narratives, Alzheimer's disease and social movements. She has been a member of the Holy Cross faculty since 2008.

What are you working on now?

Editing the Journal of Aging Studies has taken up much of my time over the last few years and especially during the pandemic, but I am currently examining the subjective experiences of home care workers, including personal care assistants and hospice staff, to understand this vital — and largely marginalized — part of the workforce. Understanding the motivations of this cadre of mostly young women of color is important to their being appreciated as a societal resource in rapidly growing demand. Mapping how they fared during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as how death and dying, and grief more broadly, have been transformed are also central research interests of mine.

At this point in your career, what is your proudest accomplishment?

I am proud that Margarita Wheeler, who I met during my first nursing home job as a teenager, still fuels my commitment to people living with memory loss. Diagnosed with what was then called "Oldtimers," I am glad that I did not believe the nursing staff who insisted she was "not there" and discouraged me from interacting with her. That relationship drives me to conduct research and teach in ways that debunk ageism and ableism. Getting students to appreciate our shared humanity and interrogate what it is that we owe one another is incredibly rewarding to me. My relationship with Margarita also encouraged me to accept Jenny Knauss' offer to co-author an article. Jenny framed her own early onset Alzheimer's as a "manageable disability," and that was the most humbling and meaningful publishing experience I've had. Bringing life stories like these into the classroom invigorates my teaching.

Matthew Eggemeier, religious studies

Matthew Eggemeier, of the religious studies department, earned a B.A. in religious studies from University of Dayton, a master's degree in theological studies from Harvard Divinity School and a Ph.D. in systematic theology from the University of Notre Dame. His research focuses on contemporary Catholic theology, political theology and Catholic social teaching. He has been a member of the Holy Cross faculty since 2009.

What are you working on now?

I am entering my third year of serving as dean for the class of 2023. As a result, I devote basically all of my time to supporting our students as they navigate their way through academic and COVID-related challenges. But in 2020, I published three books on the relationship between Catholicism, politics and economics: "The Politics of Mercy: Catholic Life in an Era of Inequality, Racism, and Violence," with Peter Fritz; "Send Lazarus: Catholicism and the Crises of Neoliberalism," with Peter Fritz; and "Against Empire: Ekklesial Resistance and the Politics of Radical Democracy." After completing my class dean duties in 2023, I plan to write another book in the area of U.S. political theology on the relationship between Catholic social teaching, prisons and war.

At this point in your career, what is your proudest accomplishment?

Without a doubt, my proudest accomplishment is the opportunity to teach and mentor students. My teaching focuses on the relationship between religion and politics — the two things you are not supposed to talk about in polite company. Teaching in this area provides me with the opportunity to engage in conversations with students about fundamental questions of human meaning and social responsibility. At Holy Cross, we are committed to offering an educational experience that challenges students to reflect on their responsibility for the marginalized and powerless in our world. And I would have to say that I am most proud as an educator when our students use their gifts and talents to challenge structures of oppression in society and choose career paths that contribute to the common good.

Timothy Joseph '98, classics

Timothy Joseph '98, of the classics department, earned an A.B. in classics from Holy Cross and a Ph.D. in classical philology from Harvard University. His research focuses on Latin historiography and epic poetry, with a focus on the literature of the early Roman empire. He has been a member of the Holy Cross faculty since 2006.

What are you working on now?

I'm working with two colleagues in the religious studies department, Caroline Johnson Hodge and Benny Liew, on co-editing a collection of essays that brings together scholars in classics and New Testament studies. The volume aims to explore much of the common ground between the two disciplines — and to consider the urgent ethical implications of our scholarship and teaching. I've also just finished a book on the Roman poet Lucan's epic poem "Pharsalia," which is about Julius Caesar's victory in the Roman civil wars and the consequences of that victory. It's an unconventional, disorienting and mournful poem, and in it Lucan ties together the themes of political collapse, natural disaster, cosmic destruction and, I argue, the end of poetic form. It's been quite a trip spending so much time with this poem about disintegration and catastrophe during these fractured and uncertain times of ours.

At this point in your career, what is your proudest accomplishment?

I'm proudest of those times when students connect readings from ancient Greek and Latin literature to their own experiences and to the world that surrounds us. Each time a class of mine reads, for example, Homer's "Iliad" or Augustine's "Confessions," I get to hear new connections, critiques and reasons for inspiration. Moments like these occur in my classes all the time, so I get to experience these ancient texts anew again and again. I'm very grateful for that.

Timothy Roach, physics

Timothy Roach, of the physics department, earned a B.S. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an M.A. in physics from Brandeis University and a Ph.D. in physics from Yale University. His research focuses on experimental atomic physics (laser manipulation of ultracold atoms) and high-precision atomic spectroscopy. He has been a member of the Holy Cross faculty since 1999.

What are you working on now?

Recently, we have been studying intriguing geometric patterns that unexpectedly showed up in our research on cold vapors of rubidium atoms. There are applications of this in atomic clocks used for global positioning systems, but also in fundamental investigations of quantum physics. We use a technique called laser-cooling, bombarding a gas of atoms with laser light from all directions. Surprisingly, this can actually slow the atoms down, cooling them to almost absolute zero. This requires a particular choice for the wavelength and polarization of the laser light. A few years ago, we noticed that the light sometimes causes the atoms to organize nicely into patterns like stripes or oval islands. We showed this relates theoretically to the polarization pattern of the overlapping laser beams, and now we are trying to create specific patterns in order to understand the microscopic forces that push the atoms into these arrangements.

At this point in your career, what is your proudest accomplishment?

I am most proud of — and have most enjoyed — having provided opportunities for many students to engage in actual experimental science. Since joining Holy Cross, I've supervised over 50 student research projects. My aim for each one is to have students experience the joys of discovery and creation. A discovery might simply be something interesting or unique we see together one afternoon in the lab. Or it could be a gradually developing insight that leads to a peer-reviewed publication. As for creation, students make important parts of their apparatus, such as an optical imaging system, software for computer control or electrical amplifier circuits. They take pride in seeing their creations at work and the skills they learn prepare them for careers in many directions. I am also glad to have brought some of these same types of experiences into our laboratory courses, both for physics majors and for non-science students.

Written for the Fall 2021 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.

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