Professor Profile

Dr. Michael Healy

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Professor Profile

Dr. Michael Healy

The longtime professor of philosophy reflects on his career.

Summer 2022 | Tom Sofio

In This Article

It’s a fair question to ask: Why would someone choose the study of philosophy as their life’s vocation?

Dr. Michael Healy, who has taught philosophy at Franciscan University since 1986, points to two pivotal childhood experiences.

Because his father served in the military, his family moved a lot, so he made friends then lost them routinely.

And seared in his memory is that Saturday morning when Michael, age 5, was watching cartoons with his sister, age 7, while his dad was shaving upstairs. At that moment, his mother died of a heart attack while sitting in the chair opposite the kids.

“Those two facts, my mom’s sudden death in front of my eyes and moving every few years, gave me an impression very early in life of the contingency and transitoriness of this world,” he says.

Healy double majored in psychology and philosophy at Loyola University of Los Angeles, now Loyola-Marymount University, but his driving interest was philosophy.

While many of his teachers were humanists, Freudians, and relativists, a course taught by Dr. Ronda Chervin, “The Philosophy of Love and Friendship,” set his career in motion.

Tucked into the class was an article by Dietrich von Hildebrand on the true meaning of sex. None of his psychology courses came close to unfolding the true nature of human sexuality.

Exposure to the works of von Hildebrand, Kierkegaard, Newman, and a course on the philosophy of God and religion also “regrounded” Healy and “raised fundamental questions about ethics and how human beings should behave that led me to rediscover my faith, as well as traditional philosophy.”

While doing his dissertation, he worked as teacher and counselor at a home for troubled teenagers. Then, in 1978, armed with a PhD in philosophy from the University of Dallas, Healy took a succession of jobs at a seminary college, a small traditional Catholic college, and then at the University of Dallas as dean of Students and professor.

He arrived at Franciscan University at age 35 to take on the job of dean of the Faculty—having met University President Father Michael Scanlan, TOR’s, requirement for a dean who embodied an orthodox approach to Catholicism.

Healy came on board in 1986 when there were 44 full-time faculty members and 833 full-time undergraduates. When he left the position in 2000 to teach philosophy full-time, those stats had risen to over 100 faculty and 1,540 undergrads.

It was in intense period of growth for Franciscan University and for the Philosophy Program, which went from one major and one professor in 1986, to becoming home to the largest number of philosophy majors of any school in the U.S. A Master of Philosophy Program was added in January 1993.

“When students discovered that philosophy and reason could bolster their faith and help them explain it, they got enthused!” says Healy.

Healy is as excited today about philosophy as when he first cracked open von Hildebrand’s writings. His favorite course to teach is the Nature of Love, followed closely by Philosophy of Religion.

Summing up his philosophy on philosophy, he says, “Philosophy helps clear all the voices in your head that you pick up from the culture and the media.”

Michael and his wife, Maria, live in Steubenville. They are parents to five adult children and have 12 grandchildren.

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