Faculty Spotlight: John Michael Atherton

John Atherton, associate professor of philosophy, is more than an educator. He is a supporter of the environment, member of the Peace Corps and avid film enthusiast.

On Sept 27, Atherton presented testimony to the Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA) against Marcellus shale gas drilling. Atherton presented six points expressing the harms of the drilling on the environment and people.

To become a part of this presentation, Atherton requested a time slot several months in advance. He presented with 120 other individuals demonstrating the pros and cons of the drilling.

“You cannot let people get away with doing wrong,” said Atherton. “You have to speak your voice and go down fighting; if we don’t speak up we are becoming a part of the problem.”

Atherton has been teaching philosophy at Seton Hill University (SHU) for 13 years.

“It’s interesting how I came to work with Seton Hill. I followed my wife who got a job working at St. Vincent [College] and then I started to look for work bringing me to Seton Hill,” said Atherton. “It’s kind of ironic she was teaching at the all boys school and I was at the all girls school.”

Atherton spent four years working with the Peace Corps stationed in Swaziland, Africa. Atherton spent three years working as a teacher in low level high schools before he began working in the Ministry of Education.

While working for the ministry, Atherton wrote standardized tests and radio programs. “It was a wonderful job, even better than teaching. I loved hitchhiking all over Africa,” said Atherton.

“This campus is very active in promoting the faculty being involved in professional organizations [the Peace Corps],” said Atherton as he listed international cities he visited to attend conferences.

Looking at SHU’s curriculum, Atherton wishes film could be offered more. Films are a long-time passion of Atherton’s, especially foreign films. “I learned a lot about foreign films in college, and there are so many good foreign films out there people do not know,” said Atherton.

Atherton can’t pin down a favorite genre. “I’m torn between love comedy and noir films. I really like slapstick comedies of the ‘30s and ‘40s,” said Atherton. He would like to one day see a film festival held at SHU.

“If I have to say my favorite film would have to be ‘Ikiru’ by Akira Kurosawa,” said Atherton. “Actually, I don’t think there is a movie from him I did not enjoy. Kurosawa is an interesting, subtle and exciting kind of person and director.”

Atherton attended St. Mary’s University in Minnesota where he studied English and philosophy.

“Philosophy is where you find yourselves asking these non-standard questions no one else thinks about,” Atherton said when asked how he found himself interested in philosophy. “In high school you don’t know what it is, but you question things others don’t, but when you go college you learn its called philosophy

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