University of South Carolina

Passion for the classroom calls USCL dean back to teaching

By USCL Comunications Staff, USC Times 

John Catalano plays a wicked game of ping-pong. Ask any student at USC Lancaster and they’ll tell you about it. Over competitive games of ping-pong Catalano, dean of USCL for the last 11 years, lends an ear, provides encouragement or helps students find solutions to life’s pesky problems.

This month Catalano retires as dean and returns to the classroom full time to teach philosophy and continue his research as a Francis Lieber scholar. The halls of USCL’s Medford Library may never be quiet again, as laughter and lively debate are known to erupt from his classroom.

And, you can bet that Catalano won’t confine his teaching to the classroom. He’ll continue to teach by example through volunteering and leading the charge for campus and community charities. His personal commitment to bettering the lives of students at USCL extends from the two endowed scholarships he established to the countless hours he spends mentoring.

Catalano, who grew up in Columbia and earned four degrees in philosophy and library science from USC, says he’s ready to challenge his students in class and over a game of ping-pong.

“I came to USC Lancaster as a teacher of philosophy and logic over 30 years ago. I loved teaching and have really missed being in the classroom for the last decade while serving as dean,” Catalano said. “Administrative work has its rewards, but there is nothing better than seeing the change that occurs in a freshman who is awakened by new ideas. I look forward to the change from concerns about finances, employees and facilities back to academic concerns about epistemology and ontology and to meetings with students about where they are in their academic path.”

Here’s what some have to say about professor Catalano:

“John Catalano was one of the most memorable professors I ever had, and not just because he was a wizard with the ping-pong paddle. His philosophy class challenged students’ conventional way of thinking and helped develop the mental dexterity and critical analysis skills necessary to succeed in higher education and life.”

-- Daniel Boan, former USCL student and USC Columbia ’01 and School of Law ‘04


“As I got to know him better, I quickly realized that he was the kind of teacher that I wanted to be. His philosophy classes were challenging but accessible. His priority has always been doing what is best for the students.”

-- Kimberly Covington, USCL English instructor


“Dr. Catalano is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. As I’ve told many folks before, there is no way I would have succeeded in college without his encouragement to dream big and be confident. Looking back to my time at USCL, I don’t exactly remember all the wise advice that Dr. Catalano gave me or exactly all the kind things he did for me, but I do remember how he made me feel.  He made me and all his students feel assured that no matter where you came from or what circumstances you may have encountered in life, he was there rooting for you to succeed. You were his priority and you absolutely knew it.”

-- Andrew Dorsey, USC Columbia graduate student president, USCL ’07 and USC Columbia ’09


“John Catalano’s teaching transcended the classroom and helped me grow as both a student and as an adult preparing to move into the working world. I credit a portion of my success in life to the things I learned from him both in and out of the classroom. He was generous with his knowledge and enriched my college experience beyond measure. I will never forget him and consider myself fortunate to have had him as a teacher and now as a friend.”

-- Logan McFadden, USCL ‘01

Under Catalano's leadership USCL: 

  • doubled its enrollment to more than 1,800 students from 28 S.C. counties, 11 states and 11 nations
  • launched a collegiate college athletics program
  • raised $3 million for the campus’s 50th anniversary
  • established the Native American Studies program
  • opened the Native American Studies Center in downtown Lancaster
  • will soon begin construction on Founders Hall, a new classroom building slated to open in 2014

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Posted: 12/12/12 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 12/12/12 @ 1:40 PM | Permalink