On April 20, Susan Wessel, Ph.D., was installed as the first James H. and Mary F. Moran Endowed Professor in the Origins of Church Teachings. The ceremony featured remarks from Wessel, University President John Garvey, Provost Aaron Dominguez, and The Very Rev. Mark Morozowich, S.E.O.D., dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies.

This endowed professorship was made possible through the generosity of Alice B. Moran, who made a bequest to the University through her estate. Her legacy will ensure that future generations of students have the opportunity to learn about the events that shaped the Catholic Church as we know it today.

Watch the full ceremony

About Alice B. Moran

Although Ms. Moran was not an alumna, she was a friend of the Catholic University of America and had previously made donations to the University. The bequest was made to the Department of Church History within the School of Theology and Religious Studies for the purpose of scholarly research relating to the origins of Church Teachings, in memory of her parents, James H. and Mary F. Moran.

Nelson Minnich, an ordinary professor of Church history within TRS, knew Alice from Bible study groups they attended together. He said she had a great interest in the ancient Church.

“Ms. Alice Moran’s interests were in the early Church as a norm for critiquing the modern one,” Minnich said. “She studied carefully the Bible and Church Fathers, annotating copiously her multi-volume copy of the Church Fathers’ writings in English translation.”

—Nelson Minnich

Ms. Moran was born on October 20, 1920, in Woodsville, New Hampshire. She was a graduate of the University of New Hampshire in 1942. She earned her Master’s Degree at the University of Kentucky in 1945 and her PhD. in Microbiology from The George Washington University in 1978. Ms. Moran had a lengthy career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a microbiologist in Kentucky, Georgia, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Following a brief illness, Alice died in Woodsville, New Hampshire, on October 17, 2011.

According to Ms. Moran’s family, Alice was one of three very accomplished sisters. Their mother, Mary, died when Alice was only about 10 years old. Their father, James, was a railroad engineer who instilled in his daughters the need for education so that they would always be able to support themselves in what could be a harsh world. Alice was predeceased by her older sister, Winnifred, who was a successful lawyer, and her twin sister, Catherine, who was a successful executive at Exxon. All were devout Catholics; devoted to each other and their extended family; loyal to their country and generous benefactors of their hometown and community of Woodsville.

About Susan Wessel, Ph.D.

Dr. Susan Wessel is an Ordinary Professor in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America.

As the inaugural Moran Chair, she brings a diverse and robust career to her teaching and research.

She received a B.A. in Music History and Theory from Smith College, and early in her career performed the flute and piccolo in the Springfield Symphony Orchestra in Springfield, Mass.

She went on to pursue and receive her J.D. from Harvard Law School and held legal positions in law firms in Germany and the United States, including serving as a member of the litigation department of the prestigious Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Boston.

Her career path changed as she received graduate degrees from Harvard Divinity School, Union Theological Seminary, and her Ph.D. with distinction from Columbia University.

Her theological training has been supported by her multi-lingual studies. She counts Greek, Latin, French, and German among the languages she works in. This has given her special access to ancient texts and has helped her in her specialties of patristics, historical theology, and early Christianity.

She came to Catholic University in 2004 as an assistant professor in Church history and historical theology. In addition to teaching many courses in these areas, she is a well-published scholar, researcher, and translator. Among her prestigious publications are several books and translations, including her most recent publication, Reading Augustine: On Compassion, Healing, Suffering and the Purpose of the Emotional Life (Bloomsbury: New York and London, 2020). She has contributed numerous articles and book chapters to periodicals and edited collections, covering such topics as the history of the Church councils, the emotions in early Christian thought, compassion and healing in early Byzantium, a monograph and several articles on Leo the Great, articles on Gregory of Nyssa and the reception of ancient philosophy, and several contributions in the field of early ecclesiastical law.

She is currently writing a chapter on the history of early Christianity for the Oxford History of the Roman World.