April 2015

Introducing: Doctor Matthews!

DR. Matthews We are pleased to announce that one of our faculty members, Sarah Matthews, just received her Doctorate in History from the University of Iowa. Her dissertation is entitled “Matter Over Mind: Pietro D'Abano (d. 1316) and the Science of Physiognomy.”

Dr. Matthews says the following of receiving her Doctorate: “I could not have gotten this doctorate without my students at MacLaren. A doctorate involves becoming absurdly focused. I left my [doctoral] program two years ago because I had started to feel like what I was doing was meaningless. Teaching enabled me to come up for air, to broaden my lens, to pull back and remember why I love history in the first place. That was what enabled me to go back and finish. Also, middle school students ask the questions that matter. Historians sometimes get bogged down by the details--how many sheep did Abbot A receive from Lord B? Is manuscript Y older than manuscript X? But twelve-year-olds know the real questions--why did people kill each other over religion? What happened if you wanted to marry the wrong person? And why don't we learn about more girls?"

A woman of many talents, Dr. Matthews teaches Medieval History to 7th grade girls and Geometry and Precalculus to 9th grade girls. She also plays the harp and will occasionally share her prowess in music with the whole school at Morning Assembly. When asked why she chose to pursue her particular passion for history, she says, “History is wonderful because it is a discipline that contains EVERYTHING--except for, well, the future. Science has a history, mathematics has a history, music has a history. In studying history I feel like I can engage with any subject I want or even multiple subjects at once."

Dr. Matthews is curious about the world around her and passes along her passion for learning to her students. But the process of earning this doctorate taught her a lot about the discipline and hard work needed to achieve mastery in a subject area, something that the faculty uphold to their students every day at MacLaren. When asked what she learned about herself in the process of working toward this doctoral degree, she was reminded of something her grandfather, the original Dr. Matthews, had said to her when she was working on her dissertation. He insisted that the value of the dissertation lay in the effort required to finish it. She explains it this way: “It makes you exercise a vast amount of self-discipline; it makes you think and plan and juggle ideas on a scale required by few other projects; it makes you face up to all of your self-doubt and neuroses; it makes you figure out what you are willing to sacrifice for this and what you will never, ever, EVER sacrifice."

Kudos to Dr. Matthews for this great accomplishment!

-Katherine Brophy, Director of Marketing and Admissions

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