With the 2009-1010 academic year, Wheeling Jesuit University (WJU) embarked on a new era of the Honors Program, with a two-year introductory Laut Honors College and a competitive two-year Ignatian Honors Seminar. In all of its activities, the WJU Honors Program seeks to provide multi-disciplinary, integrative intellectual experiences delivered via traditional and non-traditional pedagogies that range from challenging reading to travel and service.
Despite the alterations in the administrative design, a continuity remains from the earliest days of the program, which was started to honor the work and career of Fr. Stephen J. Laut, S.J. Fr. Laut began his career in the English department at Wheeling College (as it was then named) in 1962. In 1968, he was appointed chair of the department, and in 1979, he received the Clifford M. Lewis, S.J. Award, given annually by the Wheeling Jesuit University Alumni Council to alumni, faculty, or staff who exhibit extraordinary service, contribution and dedication to the University in the spirit of Fr. Lewis.
Fr. Laut was typical of WJU's most devoted faculty in promoting academic excellence through intellectual development. The Honors Program commemorated his dedication by adopting his name, and that memory continues forward into the future via the activities of the Laut Honors College.
The essential design of the Honors Program is to offer exceptional WJU students the opportunity to explore, in an atmosphere of inquiry unclouded by grade anxiety, a topic whose general breadth encourages a multi-faceted approach. While a single faculty member coordinates the Laut Honors College and another faculty member mentors the Ignatian Honors Seminar, the WJU Honors College model is actually about a plurality of voices and insights; authorities from within the faculty and beyond interact with students during the course of the year's exploration of the topic.
While since 1996 the Honors Program has listed its default class-meeting times as Wednesday evenings (a tradition that shall continue), the meetings of the honors program are as likely to be in a museum or a field or on a sidewalk as in a classroom. In the WJU Honors Program, we have gone and will continue to go wherever an idea takes us.