A “Lifetime Contribution” is exactly right.

Speaking of Dostoevsky, I just heard that my dear literature professor, Dr. Mary Mumbach, the former dean and co-founder of Thomas More College, and now dean and co-founder of The Erasmus Institute of Liberal Arts, has just been awarded the 2011 Russell Kirk Paideia Prize for Lifetime Contribution To Classical Education.

I am absolutely delighted to see Dr. Mumbach being recognized.  This is a woman who eat, drinks, and breathes literature, and who has poured her entire life into passing her love on to hundreds and hundreds of college students.  Last time I read The Brothers Karamazov, it was in her Russian Novel class . . . let’s see, about fifteen years ago, almost to the day, I think!  And here I am picking up the book for the third or fourth time.  How I would love to be able to sit in the cafeteria with a cup of coffee and have a chat with Dr. Mumbach.

Hey parents, if your kids are approaching college age, do yourself a favor and check out The Erasmus Institute, where Dr. Mumbach is Dean and professor.  It is a small, rustic, intense place, joyfully Catholic and utterly dedicated to the love of learning.  And there’s a Rome semester!  And look at this curriculum! And if you act fast, your child could have the delightful experience not only of soaking up the best of Western Civilization, but of soaking it up in a chair next to such celebrities as my own brother, my niece, and my nephew.

Seriously, my three brothers and four sisters and I, my husband, and two of my husband’s siblings were all students of the folks who founded Erasmus.  This is a good place — take a look.

One more thing:  as I write,  it occurs to me that, for some reason, I never thanked my teachers for the extraordinary education I got.  I can see much more clearly now how much love, care, and energy went into each class, and I am very grateful!  Thank you, Dr. Mumbach, and Dr. Sampo, Mr. Shea, Ms. Enos, Ms. Bonifield, and Mr. Syseskey.  Life is so much richer because of those four years.


  1. Thank you, Simcha, for passing on this news of Dr. Mumbach, and for your tribute here. Congratulations to Dr. Mumbach!

  2. Very well said. My biggest regret is that I didn’t appreciate the education I was getting when I was there getting it. But the seeds were planted and immense respect has grown from them.

  3. Hurray for Dr. Mumbach!

    And man, I should totally read the Brothers Karamazov again. Though, it’s only been just over 5 years since I read it in her class….

  4. The longer I work in higher ed, the more I appreciate the gift that was given us in the Thomas More curriculum.

    Congratulations to Dr. Mumbach. We still badly need more scholars who dedicate their lives to the restoration of the liberal arts, and they are too little recognized.

  5. Interesting. I’ve met several of her students who have told me about their time at TMC and what they did after. Promiscuous people. Dishonest people. “Go along to get along” people…definitely not people I would ever want to give as examples of what a Catholic should be. And these people all went to TMC and were supposedly “formed” under the guidance of Mumbach and Sampo. Of course, given Sampo’s imprimatur on under age drinking in the woods and on his own property, it’s not surprising they don’t take law — man or God’s — seriously.

    • That’s stupid, Joe. Dr. Sampo and Dr. Mumbach are not perfect, and the way they run their schools is not perfect. They didn’t found a monastery, they founded a liberal arts school — and their students are young adults, not little kids. If you are looking for a college that only turns out saints, then you are going to be looking for a long, long time.

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