Braniff Alumnus Joins Classical Education Faculty
Date published: May 10, 2019
Professor of Humanities and Philosophy Jeffrey Lehman, MA ’99 PhD ’02, will be joining
Braniff’s Classical Education faculty in the fall. For the past six years, he has
taught at Hillsdale College. Below, Dr. Lehman shares with us some of what he has
been doing in the years since he left UD and what he hopes to do upon his return.
1. Tell us about your time at Hillsdale.
I’ve taught at Hillsdale College for six rich and rewarding years. During that time,
I created and developed several courses for the Classical Education Department to
enhance its offerings: Classical Logic & Rhetoric, Classical Quadrivium, Master Teachers
in the Western Tradition, Plato & Socratic Dialogue, Aristotle on First Principles,
Augustine the Teacher, Aquinas on the Virtues, and others. After I’d taught it in
my department for a few years, the first of these courses, Classical Logic & Rhetoric,
was made a part of the core curriculum at Hillsdale College (i.e., with a few modifications
to make it accessible to underclassmen). It has been a delight to see the department
grow, attracting excellent students of many different majors who are eager to explore
the Western tradition of liberal education in greater depth. It has also been an honor
to be a part of strengthening the core curriculum at Hillsdale College by refining
and teaching the logic and rhetoric course with first-rate colleagues from diverse
2. Where were you before that?
Just prior to teaching at Hillsdale College, I spent seven years teaching at Thomas
Aquinas College (TAC) in Santa Paula, California. There I taught across the curriculum,
including courses in which we read great works in mathematics, natural science, history,
politics, literature, philosophy and theology. Since all coursework at TAC is taught
through Socratic conversation, my years there enabled me to hone my skills at leading
Socratic discussions surrounded by students and faculty who were committed to seeking
the truth in a spirit of philosophical friendship.
Before teaching at Thomas Aquinas College (and before being received into the Church),
I was a faculty member of the Torrey Honors Institute—a Great Books honors program
of Biola University in La Mirada, California—during its early years. Much like the
curriculum at TAC, the curriculum of the Torrey Honors Institute was interdisciplinary
in nature and grounded in the Great Books of the Western tradition.
3. What have you most enjoyed about teaching at Hillsdale, and what do you look forward
to at UD?
Among the many occasions for gratitude that I could mention, the two principal ones
that have made teaching at Hillsdale College such a joy are the faculty and students.
There is a real sense of collegiality among the faculty at Hillsdale, and this collegiality
has been a constant source of inspiration, encouragement and challenge to me. Faculty
regularly get together to read and discuss matters that take them beyond their own
disciplines in pursuit of a truly integrated liberal education for themselves and
for their students. For example, one fall semester I led a faculty seminar on the
logic text and reader I’d developed for the Classical Logic and Rhetoric course. Among
those who participated were faculty from the English, history, politics, biology,
chemistry and mathematics departments. The commitment to interdisciplinary dialogue
among faculty has been delightful.
Then there are the students. Hillsdale College is blessed to have many bright young
souls who are committed to pursuing a liberal education grounded in the liberal arts,
and who are always seeking to situate their studies in individual disciplines within
the larger whole of a liberal education aimed at discovery of the truth. The high
level and generous spirit of dialogue among students on campus is contagious and profoundly
Having said all these true and good things about Hillsdale College faculty and students,
I am thrilled to be returning to the University of Dallas. I first gained a knowledge
of and a love for liberal education at UD, and in many ways my entire professional
career has been an outworking of good, true and beautiful things that I first glimpsed
while there as a graduate student. My deep love of the classical liberal arts and
ongoing quest to discern their current relevance to classical education was first
kindled at UD, and the entire Arts of Liberty Project is in large part an ongoing, natural development of what began there. What is more,
many of those amazing Hillsdale College colleagues I mentioned above are former classmates
from or fellow graduates of the University of Dallas. There is quite a UD contingent
here, and that presence has been a constant reminder of my desire to return to UD
to teach, if a suitable occasion presented itself. This move is a homecoming. It affords
me the opportunity to take the many things I’ve learned and experienced over the years
and put them to good use at the academic institution that I love most.
4. What are some of your favorite courses that you’ve taught?
First, I should mention Master Teachers in the Western Tradition. Designed as a microcosm
of an integrated, “Great Books” curriculum, the course begins with a few dialogues
of Plato (Meno, Phaedrus and Phaedo) and excerpts from Aristotle’s works (Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics and Politics) and proceeds to consider works in literature, history, politics, philosophy and
theology throughout the Western tradition. The reading list is very selective, of
course, and focuses on texts that speak to perennial questions across the disciplines.
The delight that students took in this course inspired other courses, one of which
is Plato and Socratic Dialogue. As its name suggests, this course considers many of
Plato’s Socratic dialogues and then examines remarkable instances of philosophical
dialogue from later in the Western tradition (e.g., Augustine’s Cassiciacum dialogues,
Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, Thomas More’s Utopia, etc.). One other favorite is Classical Quadrivium. While much has been said of and
done with the trivium—grammar, logic (dialectic) and rhetoric — in classical education, relatively little
has been attempted regarding the quadrivium—arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. Inspired by Plato’s comments on mathematical
studies (primarily in his Republic and Timaeus), this course considers each of these quadrivial arts through study of key texts,
such as Euclid’s Elements, Ptolemy’s Almagest, Kepler’s Astronomia Nova and Boethius’s On Music. The purpose of the course is to see the place that the mathematical arts/sciences
once had in a liberal education and to consider how a similar approach might be brought
to bear in the study of mathematics and natural science in classical schools today.
5. What are your areas of expertise or research interests?
One ongoing research interest is the classical liberal arts. Among the arts of the
trivium, I’ve done the most with logic. While at Hillsdale College I co-authored an
introductory text and developed an accompanying reader in primary sources (mostly
from Aristotle’s Organon with a few excerpts from Plato, Porphyry and St. Thomas Aquinas as well). With this
work in its final stages, I am turning my attention to developing a similar text and
reader for the classical quadrivium. I will begin work on this project while teaching
the new quadrivium course at UD.
Two other long-standing research interests are the works of Plato and Augustine. Last
fall I published Augustine: Rejoicing in the Truth with Classical Academic Press. This little book explores St. Augustine’s philosophy
and theology of education. I am putting finishing touches on another book, Plato and Socratic Conversation (also to be published by Classical Academic Press). This book offers an introduction
to the theory and practice of Socratic conversation, one that addresses the philosophical
foundations, the historical development, and the current practice of Socratic conversation
in classical schools today.
6. Do you have other things you’d like to share — family, hobbies, etc.?
My wife, Jennifer, and I have been happily married for 26 years. We have four children:
Emily, who is currently finishing a master’s degree in theology at the Augustine Institute
in Denver, Colorado; Samantha, who will be a sophomore next year studying theology
at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas; Jonathan, who graduates high school in
just a few days and plans to work with a general contractor here in Hillsdale; and
Andrew, who will be in fifth grade next year and is excited to be moving to Texas
to meet an armadillo in its native environs!
I love walking and hiking. One of my favorite things to do is take a long walk with
my dog Hero, a Great Pyrenees (for those not familiar with the breed, think large
white wolf with a gentle, playful disposition). Jennifer and I also love hiking, especially
in national parks, but also just about anywhere we can get out and enjoy nature. Among
our favorites parks are Sequoia/Kings Canyon, Death Valley, Zion and Yosemite.
One hobby that Jennifer and I have shared has been growing and caring for plants.
In our various gardens we have grown bananas, lemons, kumquats, cherries, apples,
blackberries and many other fruiting plants. We also enjoy growing flowers and flowering
trees—fuchsias, tulips, hibiscus, passion vines, trumpet flowers, etc. The general
weather conditions in southern Michigan have made this hobby a little difficult. Jennifer
and I are looking forward to getting back to Texas, where many of our favorite plants
Discover more about UD’s Classical Education program. Also, find out more about Classical Education in Rome this summer.