If you have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Jon Paul Heyne, you are simply missing out on encountering a delightful individual.
Hailing from Southlake, Texas — before it was boujee, he noted — Heyne is the youngest of eight children and has lived in the DFW area for most of his life — aside from several years of studying at the Catholic University of America, and that one time he worked in a pirate store in France — we’ll get to that later. His family owned a substantial property and raised various animals such as cows, sheep, chicken and some goats.
When he is not on campus, Heyne can be found hanging out with his “niblings” — a term he uses to encompass his siblings and nieces/nephews — of whom he has “twenty-four, I think” — playing the guitar, or working with his hands, among other things. Currently, he is fixing up his dream car: a 1989 — note: he paused here to emphasize that 1989 is Taylor Swift’s birth year — Jeep Wrangler, which is his dream car because it is from Jurassic Park.
Two of the most formative places for Heyne are Cistercian and UD. “You could say I was given as an oblate to the Cistercians as a child,” he joked. Growing up, his family attended daily Mass at the monastery, which inevitably resulted in leaving one of the children behind as they had fallen asleep beneath the pews. The monks took good care of him — and still do — he cites the widely-loved Father Roch Kereszty, O.Cist., as “a living saint” — and he graduated up the hill to UD in the footsteps of his older siblings.
Heyne sees it as “an absolute dream” and “sort of a miracle” to be a professor at UD. His love for the community, the Catholic environment and the liberal arts education is very apparent. When asked why he loves teaching, Heyne simply responded: “It’s fun; it’s really fun!”
“Besides just being loads of fun,” he continued, “it’s such a joy, such a delight” to be able to instill into his students the lessons some of his most beloved professors taught him. One of the most important lessons one can learn at UD, Heyne believes, is “how to articulate a reasoned argument well — how to reason well. Helping students sharpen that skill is invaluable.”
Out of the many beloved professors Heyne encountered during his time as a student at UD, two in particular stand out: Father Robert Maguire, O.Cist., and Dr. John Sommerfeldt. Fr. Maguire has been a close family-friend of the Heynes for years, often celebrating Easter with them, an occasion on which he loves to crack confetti eggs on everyone’s heads.
“He’s such a hoot,” Heyne said.
Then there’s Sommerfeldt, a “charming, barrel-chested” man often seen sporting a patch over one eye, who left a lasting impression on Heyne and “really got [him] thinking.”
Speaking of eyepatches: there was, indeed, that one time Heyne spent about six weeks helping a family friend start up a pirateer store in San Malo, France. At his UD convocation, this summer plan of his was announced, followed by the confirmation that “he [wasn’t] kidding.”
While painting pirate flags and fixing up sailboats was not exactly where he pictured himself upon graduating, it was “lots of fun,” and he soon ended up at the Catholic University of America, where he earned an M.A. in Medieval and Byzantine Studies and a Ph.D. in Medieval History.
I had the recent pleasure of taking Western Civilization II with Heyne. Throughout the semester, I noticed a common tagline of his: “Be bold!” When asked about the inspiration behind this impassioned motto, Heyne says that it is something he probably borrowed subconsciously from Fr. Maguire.
“He wouldn’t say that precisely, but it’s back there in my mind and affects the way I teach,” Heyne says. In addition, Heyne was “quite shy, in many ways” during his college years, so to “be bold enough to be raw” is something he is intent on encouraging his students.
Heyne learns a good deal about the human person through his study of history and historical figures — including the saints. That he gave the longest and most detailed response to my asking of his favorite saints is just one indication that reveals the deep well of his spirituality. St. Joseph, his confirmation saint, is “pretty boss”; St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi are two of his favorites, seeing as much of his research is on Franciscans; and, currently, St. Therese is quite frustrating to him, but it is okay, because he “know[s] how to play the part of an annoying little brother.”
Speaking on the human condition in light of all that he has learned and continues to learn, Heyne “suppose[s] that we are immensely complicated critters … and dealing with one another requires much patience and humility,” he says. “When you recognize how complicated we are as critters, it all the more illuminates how patient God is with us.”
During our last West Civ II class, Heyne spoke of history as “a great dance of the ages, a mingling of people and places and events and ideas.” Providing the imagery of a ballroom, he said that there are many different figures at each table and in each room, all of whom we should listen to with humility — especially the ones that leave us wondering, “What was in their drink?”
“One day,” he said, “we too will meet our death, like these ancient figures, and we will enter another Ballroom. Hopefully, we will see many of these faces there … and can carry on this conversation, this dance.”