Skip to content

Ergo | Spring 2016

Double Attraction

Wayne Vaught and Eileen Armai-Vaught with Richard Aquila (center) during a recent visit to the department.

Wayne Vaught and Eileen Amari-Vaught have come a long way since their graduate student days in the department during the mid-1990s.  Both are now at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, where Eileen works as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing and Health Studies and Wayne is Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Both arrived on campus in the fall of 1991 as new recruits for the bioethics concentration of the Ph.D. program.  They met soon after in Glenn Graber's Thursday evening Bioethics class.  By December or January they were dating.

Eileen did her undergraduate work at the University of Scranton, a Jesuit institution, where she majored in philosophy and biology.  Along the way she happened to take a medical ethics course from Ronald McKinney, S.J.  "It was by far my favorite class in college," she says, and that motivated her to pursue graduate studies in medical ethics.  She chose UT largely because the program combined a solid grounding in philosophy with a clinical practicum. 

Wayne was an undergraduate at Georgetown College in Kentucky.  He became fascinated with philosophical questions in a general education philosophy course and decided to make philosophy his major.  After graduation, he studied philosophy at Baylor University, where he received his M.A.  There he did an independent study in bioethics with Kay Toombs and found the application of philosophical theory to medical practice much to his liking.  It was Professor Tombs who recommended that he consider UT.  Like Eileen, he was attracted by the clinical practicum, largely because it promised to open up career opportunities that a traditional philosophy degree would not.

The meeting in Glenn Graber's class was the beginning of a long relationship.  Wayne and Eileen continued to date, and were married in 1994.  They reminisce fondly of their graduate student days.  They often hiked in the Smokies, and once at Rainbow Falls they were chased by a bear.  They recall the well-attended monthly medical ethics journal club meetings that were frequently accompanied by pizza, and the annual road trips to the meetings of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities.  At one of the latter in Washington D.C. they happened upon the movie set of Forrest Gump

Wayne graduated in 1996, Eileen in 1997.  But even before completing his dissertation Wayne was hired by what is now the Drexel College of Medicine in Philadelphia.  At first Eileen stayed in Knoxville, but within months she joined Wayne and managed to find employment at several nearby colleges, including Villanova, where she taught medical ethics to nursing students. 

In 1998 Wayne was offered an assistant professorship in Philosophy and Medicine at the University of Missouri, and both moved to Kansas City.  Eileen took an adjunct position in Philosophy but also enrolled in the nursing school.  Upon graduation, she worked first as a labor and delivery nurse, then as a family nurse practitioner.  The Nursing School hired her as a Clinical Assistant Professor in 2014.   "Nursing and philosophy have been a great combination," she says. "Working as a Nurse Practitioner I am always dealing with ethical problems."  Meanwhile, Wayne became head of the Philosophy Department, then Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs, Interim Dean, and finally Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Wayne and Eileen have two daughters, Mia, 16, and Lauren, 8.  Will these children of philosophers become philosophers?  Eileen says that their interests tend more toward the arts, but Lauren "might be interested in philosophy."

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.