Date of Paper/Work

Spring 3-12-2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Kathleen M. Boyle; Thomas L. Fish; Sarah J. Noonan


This study examined human goodness as lived through the life of Emerson Hynes with a focus on the college years. Emerson Hynes was an ethics and sociology professor at St. John’s University during the 1940s and 50s before he became legislative assistant to Senator Eugene McCarthy. He cared deeply about ethics and was a leader in family life, teaching, rural life and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, publications, advising, and legislative work. Influenced by Rev. Virgil Michel and the Benedictines, Hynes was a proponent of Catholic social justice, personalism, and distributism. He lived by an ethic of conversation and philosophy of the soil, and promoted flourishing rural life as the best possibility for a healthy society and culture.

Primary research methods were biographical, historical, and social science portraiture. Biographical methods were influenced by John Shoup’s synthesis on influences of exemplary leadership. Historical methods included archival research, oral histories, geography of place, and writings by Hynes. Portraiture methodology was attentive to context, voice, and relationship in order for themes of goodness to emerge to illuminate the aesthetic whole.

An overview of the life of Hynes is provided. The study then focused on three aspects of Hynes’s college years at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota: the influence and mentorship of Rev. Virgil Michel, his formal education, and his rich extracurricular life. These three key influences intertwine with the purposeful nature and ethical outlook of Hynes’s adult life.

Five reflective themes emerged: a philosophy of the soil – the soil that brings forth food to feed all beings and is the basis of growth for the oxygen all beings breathe – as foundational for all activity of life including love, ethics, and relationships; the importance of mentorship and its unique possibilities in the college years and implications for college teachers; a pedagogy of student engagement and conversation as a primary platform toward supporting transformational learning in the ethical realm; an ethic of conversation as fundamentally necessary toward action in the world; and accessing human goodness as an approach to support human flourishing.


Historical Methodology, Portraiture, Higher Education Pedagogy, College Years, Mentorship

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

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