Great Books scholarship honours the late Christine Cornell

St. Thomas University great books professor Christine Cornell, seen in this file photo, passed away in June 2021. (Andrea Bárcenas/AQ Archives)

St. Thomas University announced the creation of the Dr. Christine Cornell Memorial Scholarship on Nov. 10 for students who exhibit academic excellence and intend to enrol in the Aquinas program. The scholarship honours the late professor Christine Cornell, who helped to found the Aquinas and great books programs at STU and died in June of 2021.

Vivien Zelazny, STU’s campus minister, met Cornell when Zelazny was an undergraduate student in 2002. She remembers Cornell as an approachable and understanding professor who was always willing to talk to her students.

“[Cornell] would open up these books for you in such a way that you would really understand their deep value for understanding how to live a good life,” said Zelazny.

Vivien Zelazny, St. Thomas University’s campus minister, met Christine Cornell when she was an undergraduate student in 2002. (Courtesy of St. Thomas University)

In 2014, Zelazny started working at STU and became Cornell’s colleague and friend. She saw Cornell’s dedication to the Aquinas program and her goal of piquing students’ interest in great books.

“In reading these great books and forming communities with other people who are interested in these deep questions of what it means to be human are really important parts of her legacy,” said Zelazny.

Matthew Dinan, associate professor of great books, met Cornell when he was a first-year at STU. They taught together when he returned as a professor.

“[Cornell] was a very beloved professor,” he said. “She was one of my major academic and personal mentors.”

Matthew Dinan, associate professor of great books at St. Thomas University, met Christine Cornell when he was a first-year student. (Submitted: Matthew Dinan)

After Cornell’s funeral and memorial service, Dinan and Zelazny decided to propose a scholarship to honour her legacy.

“Making it a little easier for someone on the financial side speaks to her concern for students,” said Zelazny.

As of now, the scholarship is receiving donations from former students, colleagues and friends of Cornell and it will have two awards of $500 each.

Zelazny and Dinan hope they can award more students in the future, but it all depends on contributions.

“[Cornell] touched a lot of students over the years and so we anticipate that quite a few of them are going to want to give [donations] because they recognize what a wonderful opportunity it is to be a student at St. Thomas,” said Zelazny.