I was born in 1960, the only child of Joseph and Marie Incandela. My father worked for Panasonic for over forty years, and my mom sold women's shoes at Marshall Field's for over twenty-five years. Both are now retired and live in the house I grew up in in Bensenville, Illinois (a western suburb of Chicago, right next to O'Hare Airport, with a population of about 15,000). I grew up in a very loving and close Italian family. My earliest recollections involve large family gatherings with lots of food, lots of laughter, and lots of sports.
I went to grade school at St. Charles Borromeo school (in Bensenville) and high school at Immaculate Conception (in neighboring Elmhurst) and was valedictorian of my class. I also played varsity tennis my senior year.
After high school, I attended The University of Notre Dame on a partial scholarship. I went there hoping to major in Philosophy because I thought then (and still think now) that studying philosophy really helps one learn how to think. And learning how to think clearly and straightly was what I most wanted out of college. Even to this day, I encourage my students at Saint Mary's to take as much philosophy as they possibly can. I compare philosophy to a college student to speed to an athlete: it will help the athlete do better at whatever she does and will never hurt her and always help her in her other activities. So I majored in philosophy. To that, I later added a double major in Theology, largely because I got into several of those wonderful late-night college discussions with a close friend who was a theology major. He challenged me then (and continues to challenge me now) to think through the implications of what I believe. I showed up at college the way many young Catholics do--filled with lots of information from years and years of Catholic grade school and high school religion classes. But I had never really thought through these different and difficult ideas. My friend forced me to do that, and I learned then how much I really didn't know (I kept losing arguments!). And so I double-majored in theology, leaving Notre Dame with awards in both philosophy and theology and graduating in 1982 summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.
Three of the professors I had while at Notre Dame (one was a Saint Mary's professor!) received their doctorates from Princeton University, and that tended to steer me to New Jersey for graduate school. I received a university fellowship for my first three years and a Whiting Fellowship in the Humanities to fund my final year of study. While I loved philosophy, I was never really interested in the problems that most professional philosophers typically occupy themselves with. What I really wanted to do was use the training I received in my philosophy courses and apply it to religious questions. And so I went off to Princeton armed with my background in philosophy and theology and with a keen interest in contemporary philosophy of religion. I enrolled in the Department of Religion in the fall of 1982. My goal in going to graduate school (and I think I really was serious about this at the time) was to solve every major religious problem known to late-twentieth century human beings. I was extremely disappointed, then, to be encouraged to study St. Thomas Aquinas, the great 13th century scholastic theologian. I had this picture of myself as an 80's guy (NINETEEN-eighties), and there was something about that picture that I found very incompatible with having a foot in the thirteenth century. But I came to find in Aquinas exactly what I had been looking for, someone who took theology seriously and submitted the claims of faith to the most serious explorations of reason. I ended up writing my disseration on St. Thomas's view of God's knowledge; and that forced me to study very closely medieval figures who wrote immediately before and after him. If all thought is historically conditioned, we learn more and better where we are now if we look carefully at those who have come before us. That is, we can only navigate where we are conceptually if we know where we have been and how we arrived at our present position.
As I neared the end of my time at Princeton, I began to search for job opportunities. I still wasn't quite sure what the next step would be or whether I was going to use my study of religion in any direct way. The job market for professors, then as now, was very tight. I was fortunate enough to land a job as an instructor at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Bates is an excellent, co-educational college about the size of Saint Mary's. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, as it was the first time that I felt I was truly living on my own. Plus, Maine was just beautiful and really a world unto itself. I was teaching in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, which had about twelve members. The year I taught there, about eight of those twelve were on sabbatical or some other form of administrative leave. So you had all of these pretty young, green Ph.D.s starting out together. We really had the sense that the inmates were running the asylum, but we all had a wonderful time together. Professionally, it was also a time to begin to learn how to teach. I had been a teaching assistant at Princeton, but that's nothing like when someone hands you your own class list and puts you in charge of 25-30 students of your own. My time at Bates was limited because I too was substituting for someone on sabbatical. When he returned to full-time teaching, my work at Bates was done.
Fortunately for me, a position opened up at Saint Mary's College in the fall of 1987. Coming to Saint Mary's was like coming home. Like many Domers, I hadn't spent a lot of time on Saint Mary's campus and had all sorts of stereotypes about it (which were quickly dispelled!). Now, I can't imagine teaching anywhere else. Saint Mary's has for me the best of both worlds: the smaller college environment which I love, with the resources and library of Notre Dame across the street. Saint Mary's is also a place where teaching is taken very seriously and worked at collegially. I've been blessed to have the colleagues I do in the Department of Religious Studies--wonderful people all, and excellent teachers and scholars. In 1996, I became chair of the department, a position I held for two terms until 2002.
I met my wife, Kate on a blind date on August
26, 1988. We got engaged about a year and a half
later and married about another year and a half later on August 10,
1991. Kate works as an Industrial Hygienist here in
South Bend. Her bachelors degree is from the University of
Wisconsin in Environmental and Public Health; and her Masters Degree in
Safety is from Indiana State University. She is currently at work on a
Ph.D. from Andrews University. On February 21, 1995, our son Andy was born. His brother, Corey,
followed on September 10, 1998. Since then,
we've been busy learning to love both of them into the persons they want
to be. They'be both great little guys and the light and joy of our life.