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New Keenan Hall rector embraces dorm community

| Friday, August 18, 2017

This year, Keenan Hall is welcoming a new rector, James Tull, who is taking over the position held by Noel Terranova for the last five years.

Originally hailing from Cincinnati, Tull grew up visiting Notre Dame and South Bend frequently, he said. His father, Robert “Bob” Tull, played for Notre Dame’s national championship football team in 1977, his mother attended Saint Mary’s and two of his siblings graduated from Notre Dame. Tull said the University gained extra significance for him after he acquired his master’s degree from Notre Dame last year.

“I did my undergrad at Brown University,” Tull said. “ … I finished my MA in theology here at Notre Dame in July 2016, after taking classes during the previous three summers.”

While at Brown, Tull was a member of the Brown football team — he played every line position during his career — and he sang in an a capella group and was involved in campus ministry.

After graduating from Brown, Tull accepted a job teaching and coaching at Woodberry Forest School, a boarding school in Virginia. For the past five years, Tull has been teaching religion and coaching football and wrestling at St. Sebastian’s School, an all-boys Catholic high school outside of Boston, he said. Before beginning the rector position this summer Tull said he took a four-week road trip to several national parks.

“I was incredibly excited to get the job [as rector of Keenan Hall], and more specifically, I was thrilled to become a greater part of the Notre Dame community,” Tull said.

Though he has never been a rector, Tull lived in the dorms with his students at Woodberry Forest School and knows how uniquely rewarding a position of this nature can be, he said. Before applying for the job, he had heard of some of the events Keenan Hall organizes — such as the Keenan Revue and Muddy Sunday — and is excited to be a part of them.

“My biggest hope for the year is to really get to know the men of Keenan,” Tull said. “It’s the relationships that make the hall communities so special, and I’m looking forward to getting to know the men of this community.”

For the past week and a half, Tull has already been working with the Keenan Hall staff, as they complete training and prepare for the upcoming year. Senior Wilson Barrett, a Keenan Resident Assistant (RA), expects this year to be just as good as — if not better than — last year, he said.

“As an RA, a change in rector is a test of the community we’ve built,” Barrett said. “Noel did an incredible job and we hope to expand on the existing culture even more. This year, we’re looking to hit the ground running — the previous hall staff has done a great job mentoring us, and we think that all 11 of us are up to the task of facilitating community.”

Senior Keenan RA Cooper Munhall agreed with Barrett and said he is looking forward to continuing the “culture of excellence” Keenan Hall has strived for in the past with Tull’s leadership.

“He is quite compassionate and has made it abundantly clear that the well-being of the residents is at the forefront of his concerns,” Munhall said.

Junior Lukas Cepkauskas, Keenan Hall president, is anticipating a great year as Tull becomes part of the Keenan community.

“The entire Keenan community looks forward to welcoming [Tull] to our brotherhood, as well as learning from him and growing together,” Cepkauskas said. “[We] are very excited for the upcoming year and cannot wait to begin working with [Tull] and the Keenan Hall staff.”

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