Former A&S Dean Fr. Willis Dead at 83

Former A&S Dean Fr. Willis Dead at 83

A funeral Mass was celebrated Jan. 9 in St. Mary's Chapel for former Dean of Arts and Sciences Rev. John R. Willis, SJ, who died Jan. 5 at the Campion Center in Weston. He was 83.

Fr. Willis joined Boston College as A&S dean in 1964, after having completed his tertian year of Jesuit formation in Ghent, Belgium. Serving as dean until 1969, Fr. Willis also taught in the History Department. After retiring from BC in 1982, he held the Flannery Chair at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., from 1986-88.

In 1988, he returned to Massachusetts and taught church history and modern philosophy at the Pope John Seminary in Weston until last year.

A native of East Orange, NJ, Fr. Willis graduated from Amherst College in 1939 and was first in his class at Hartford Seminary. He earned a doctorate in American church history in 1946 from Yale University.

Ordained in the Congregational Church in 1943, Fr. Willis served parishes in New Jersey and in Maine, where from 1948-55 he taught at Bates College.

Fr. Willis converted to Catholicism in 1955, and entered the Society of Jesus that same year.

The author of several books, Fr. Willis was best known for his four-volume work A History of Christian Thought and Pleasures Forevermore, which explored the theology of C.S. Lewis.

-Sean Smith


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