MacLean Chair Hopes to Harness Students' Creativity

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

by Maureen Catalano '09

Dennis Leder, S.J., has come a long way to join the Saint Joseph's community as the Donald I. MacLean, S.J. Chair for the spring semester.

A Bergen County, N.J., native, Fr. Leder has spent the last 20 years in Central America, first living amongst Salvadoran refugees in Honduras and currently serving as the director of arts at Rafael Landivar University in Guatemala City.

Fr. Leder recently held an exhibition of his work in Guatemala that displayed 16 different pieces of artwork, including paintings and iron sculptures.

While at Saint Joseph's, Fr. Leder hopes to collaborate with other artists, especially those who work in other mediums, such as dance, theater and music. "I want to open the door to creativity," he said.

Fr. Leder described art education in the United States and in Guatemala as very different. "The educational format in Central America is very technical and focused," he said. "Through the art program at the university, I am able to give the students an art experience during college that they otherwise would never have." During his time at Saint Joseph's, Fr. Leder will be teaching an Introduction to Studio Art course.

"I want my students to realize that art is an investigation," he explained. "We're in it together. I have years of experience, but that doesn't mean I can give them the recipe for what works. I want to open the possibility of exchanging views and doubts in my classroom."

Fr. Leder will also be presiding over Mass every Monday at 10 p.m., as well as a few Sunday evening masses throughout the semester.

After his semester at Saint Joseph's, Fr. Leder will return to his duties at Landivar University, where he is currently taking a leave of absence. In the meantime, he looks forward to getting to know the Saint Joseph's community, especially within the language departments. "The students here are very open and welcoming," he said.

The Donald I. MacLean S.J., Chair is held by members of the Society of Jesus who are accomplished teachers and scholars in the arts and sciences. Established to emphasize that the University's Jesuit identity is inseparable from the finest teaching, scholarship and collegiate discourse, the Chair is named in honor of Saint Joseph's University's 24th president, Donald I. MacLean, S.J.


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