Final Tribute for a Scholar

Final Tribute for a Scholar

Perspectives co-founder Fr. Fortin's reputation went well beyond BC

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

Retired theology professor Rev. Ernest L. Fortin, an Assumptionist priest who co-founded the Boston College Perspectives program and a renowned scholar of political philosophy, died on Oct. 22, only days after receiving a tribute from his colleagues and former students.

Retired theology professor Rev. Ernest Fortin was honored by colleagues shortly before his death last week.
Fr. Fortin's funeral was held on Oct. 26 in the chapel of the St. Patrick's Manor Nursing Home in Framingham, where he had been confined since suffering the first of a series of strokes five years ago.

"Fr. Fortin was a truly significant intellectual figure," said Prof. Thomas Kohler (Law). "His life provides an eminent illustration of the meaning of a Catholic university as a place where the Church does its thinking, through scholars reflecting on the world from the standpoint of the tradition.
"This is what Fr. Fortin did in a way that few others can match," Kohler said. "His life was an occasion of grace for everyone who knew him."

Fr. Fortin, who joined the BC faculty in 1971, was instrumental in starting the Perspectives program nearly 30 years ago. Perspectives offers freshmen the opportunity to combine philosophy and theology studies into a single two semester course that both fulfills the University's core requirements in the subjects and offers a wider vision as to how these disciplines form a multi-layered tradition for modern thought.

Perspectives also includes a series of elective interdisciplinary courses for upperclassmen involving philosophy, theology and other academic subjects. More than 500 freshmen are enrolled in the program this year.

"It's hard to underscore Fr. Fortin's contribution to Boston College," noted Prof. Joseph F.X. Flanagan, SJ (Philosophy), who worked with Fr. Fortin to establish the Perspectives program. "It has been enormous."

"Perspectives has made a significant impact on the freshman year studies at Boston College," said Prof. Stephen Brown (Theology). "It allows freshmen to get much deeper into what's behind other studies they will take in their academic careers."

Fr. Fortin's accomplishments as a scholar were recognized far beyond Boston College. Fellow political philosopher James Schall, SJ, wrote, "In his analysis of rights, Catholic social thought, the state and general questions of justice, Ernest Fortin has penetrated to the core of the misplaced ideologies and enthusiasms that have appeared in religious circles. In addition, Fr. Fortin's essays are a direct challenge to, and redirection of the major trends in political philosophy in the modern era."

Fr. Fortin published three volumes of his collected papers in 1996 and 1997 and authored several books and numerous articles on philosophical topics.
On the weekend before he died, Fr. Fortin was honored by a gathering of nearly 75 former students, fellow faculty members, friends and undergraduates at a festschrift in his honor.

The festschrift, a collection of a volume of articles by colleagues to mark a special occasion, was titled "Gladly to Learn and Gladly to Teach: Essays on Religion and Political Philosophy in Honor of Ernest L. Fortin, AA."

"People came from all over the country to be there," said Fr. Flanagan after the event. "His students were always so loyal. The people that he had taught considered him extraordinary. They were all speaking from their hearts that day."

On Oct. 20, members of the group visited Fr. Fortin at St. Patrick's Manor to present him with a videotape of the speaking program and a copy of the festschrift.

Fr. Fortin was buried in the Assumptionist section of St. Ann's Cemetery in Sturbridge.


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