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Fr. Anderson, Scholar in Religion and Science, Dies at 57

(6-5-2007) — A funeral Mass will be celebrated on Monday, June 11, in St. Mary's Chapel for Assoc. Prof. Ronald Anderson, SJ (Philosophy), who died this past weekend. A scholar whose research interests combined facets of religion and science, Fr. Anderson was 57.

Visiting hours for Fr. Anderson will be held in St. Mary's Chapel on Sunday, June 10, from 5-8 p.m.

Ronald Anderson, SJ (Photo courtesy of Boston College Philosophy Department)

Fr. Anderson joined the Boston College faculty as an assistant professor in 1987, after serving as a lecturer during the spring of 1985. He was promoted to associate professor in 1993.

At BC, he taught such courses as Philosophy of Physics: An Introduction to its Themes, Science and Religion: Shifting Boundaries, Changing Contexts and God and Science: Developing Spiritualities for the 21st Century. He published articles in Physical Review, Journal of Physics and Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, among other publications, and contributed to such volumes as Jesuit Postmodern: Scholarship, Vocation, and Identity in the 21st Century.

Colleagues recalled Fr. Anderson as a dedicated teacher and mentor who pursued diverse interests, as evidenced by his doctorates in philosophy and physics from, respectively, Boston University and the University of Melbourne, as well as a master's of divinity degree from the Weston School of Theology.

"Ron was a rare person who was equally at ease in the disciplines of religion and science," said Rev. Francis Clooney, SJ, a former member of the Theology Department faculty residing in the University's Jesuit Community who knew Fr. Anderson for 20 years. "He could do the 'hard numbers,' yet he also was active in archival work tracing the development of science."

Even as he tended to pastoral duties -- assisting at the Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Marblehead, for example -- and other aspects of Jesuit priesthood, Fr. Clooney noted, Fr. Anderson had made a serious exploration of Buddhist philosophy.

"Ron was knowledgeable in so many ways. He had a great range of gifts and put them to very good use," said Fr. Clooney.

University Vice President for Mission and Ministry Joseph Appleyard, SJ, said, "He was an intellectually restless person in a way that made it always interesting and fun to have conversations with him. The fact that he had a doctorate in physics and another in philosophy indicates the kind of intellectual journey that he was on.

"He often talked to me about post-modern critical theory and a lot of it was literary theory that he was picking up on," Fr Appleyard said. "He was very interested in figures like Eliot. He was also interested in faith issues that are raised by some of these issues."

Fr. Appleyard said Fr. Anderson was devoted to his students. "That's probably a conventional thing to say about a teacher, but I think he did have a strong impact on a lot of students in the variety of courses that he taught."

Fr. Appleyard noted that Fr. Anderson also maintained the Jesuit Community's Web site. "He was a whiz at computers. He knew more than just about anybody about computers -- how they work and their potential. He was always coming up with ideas for improving our Web sites."

Born in Hokitika, New Zealand, Fr. Anderson entered the Society of Jesus on Feb 24, 1974, and was ordained on Sept. 1, 1984. In addition to his degrees from the University of Melbourne, Weston School of Theology and BU, he had a bachelor of science in physics from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Prior to teaching at BC, Fr. Anderson was a part-time instructor at BU's Metropolitan College, a visiting fellow at the University of Melbourne School of Physics, a visiting scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Theoretical Physics and a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Oxford.

Fr. Anderson was the son of the late Gideon and Nance Anderson and brother of the late Len Anderson. He is survived by a brother, Gideon, of New Zealand.

Burial will take place at the Jesuit Cemetery at Campion Center in Weston.


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