Nathan Tierney, a philosophy professor at California Lutheran University, is retiring in May after 28 years of teaching.
He has taught a variety of classes at Cal Lutheran including “Ethics”, “Social Ethics”, “Metaphysics”, “Business Ethics” and “Humanities Tutorial”. “Humanities Tutorial” is an honors program which Tierney helped develop during his time at Cal Lutheran.
“My general approach to teaching is to introduce students, as much as they are willing, to the deep question of life and existence, and what I find most enjoyable is when they take the journey,” Tierney said.
Senior philosophy major and department assistant Patrick Scott had Tierney as a professor in the past.
“Dr. Tierney helped me learn how to do philosophy more wisely, how to read more carefully, express my ideas more clearly and work with others,” Scott said.
Tierney said that he uses the Socratic method to promote critical thinking within his classroom.
He said that his goal is for a student to use the skills they have learned, to be able to build strong evidence for their beliefs and then be able to stand by them through difficult challenges in life.
David Claiborne, another senior philosophy major and department assistant, said that Tierney’s use of the Socratic method encourages students to think for themselves.
“He makes sure you really understand the reading. You spend all class talking about it and going back and forth with your ideas. It’s not just reading it; it’s nice that everyone can talk about it and Dr. Tierney challenges the things you say and what you think,” Claiborne said.
Tierney is also responsible for organizing the Harold Stoner Clark Lectures.
Claiborne thinks that this annual event is a great benefit to Cal Lutheran. The event brings in guest lecturers to discuss current issues, and Claiborne thinks it has a significant effect on how people view these issues.
Michaela Reaves, a history professor at Cal Lutheran, also thinks that the lectures have a great impact on campus. She said that she admires Tierney’s persistence in maintaining his values.
“He really values the humanities and the ways that that thinking really enhances everything and he has continued to extol those values: the values of reason, and not lowering his standards under pressure,” Reaves said.
She continued, “Sometimes there’s lots of pressure; he really does search for the best and reward that. So to me, he’s kind of the exemplary teacher in many ways.”
According to Xiang Chen, Cal Lutheran’s current philosophy department chair, Tierney volunteered to be chair of the art department during some interfaculty disputes, while also being chair of the philosophy department at the time.
Chen also admires Tierney’s values and ideals of education. He said Tierney always has his mind on the big picture and that it will be impossible to “find another Tierney.”
Chen said there is yet to be a decision on how the university will replace Tierney, or if they even will.
Tierney said that he is looking forward to his retirement. He plans to spend his time traveling to Spain, Italy and Portugal with his wife. He also hopes to do a lot of writing.
“There’s a couple philosophy books I’d like to get done, one on just war and one on the psychology of the moral self. I’m also interested in writing a thriller,” Tierney said.