Sister Sophia Park was recently presented with the inaugural Irene Woodward Professorship in Arts and Humanities.
“Irene is a woman with great vision. She was founded in academics, in a true, spiritual life,” said HNU Trustee Barbara Hood ’70 at an April 28 reception to recognize the first recipient of the award, Sr. Sophia, and Irene Woodward ’55. “She is very practical—she understands what needs to be done. She knows when to hold one’s hand. She knows how to get people through a very difficult time. It is in that spirit with great pride that the Class of 1970 initiated this professorship.”
Woodward first taught at the then-named Holy Names College as an instructor in 1963 and joined the full-time faculty in 1966 after completing her doctoral studies in philosophy at the Catholic University of America. Her studies centered on Thomistic metaphysics, but her teaching subjects were broad, including courses in history, logic, and her favorite—Philosophy of the Human Person. In later years, her interests focused on social and political philosophy, as well as topics relating to social justice and nonviolence.
Although teaching was her passion, she served as president of Holy Names College from 1972 to 1982, and as chancellor for three years. During this period, she guided the school through significant changes—from a single-sex campus to a coeducational one, and from a student body that was mainly California-based and Catholic to one with a large international, intercultural, and diversely spiritual student body.
Sr. Sophia, who has served as an assistant professor of religious studies and philosophy at HNU since 2009, was selected for the professorship because of her dedication to social justice and exploration into the experiences of others, Vice President for Academic Affairs Lizbeth Martin said.
“Sr. Sophia’s intellectual and personal commitment to the use of intercultural approaches in the study of religion and theology is an important part of her approach to teaching at Holy Names,” Martin said. “She is committed to teaching and learning as a transformative activity. Students have said that . . . her courses are a life-changing experience. Sr. Sophia has demonstrated impressive commitment to making sure that the voices of women are heard and appreciated, and that issues of justice are addressed.”
Sr. Sophia will use the endowment for research on a forthcoming book on cross-cultural spiritual direction. She is the author of A Hermeneutic on Dislocation as Experience: Creating a Borderland, Constructing a Hybrid Identity (Peter Lang, 2011), and numerous journal articles including “Toward Cross-Cultural Spiritual Direction: When Feeling is Caught in a Pattern” (Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction, 2013). She holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Christian Spirituality from the Graduate Theological Union.