Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

Office of News & Public Affairs

Boston College Honors School of Theology and Ministry Founding Dean Richard Clifford, SJ

jesuit, teacher, scholar, administrator honored for decades of service

Fr. Clifford tribute
At the Jan. 29 tribute event, Fr. Richard Clifford, SJ signs a copy of the Festschrift published in honor of him and the late Fr. Daniel Harrington, SJ. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (February 2015) -- Nearly 200 people gathered in the atrium of Cadigan Alumni Center on Jan. 29 for a tribute to biblical studies scholar Richard J. Clifford, SJ, founding dean of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry who will transition to professor emeritus of Old Testament next academic year.

The event featured remarks from Boston College President William P. Leahy, SJ and  Jon Levenson, Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard University, as well as the presentation of a Festschrift in honor of Fr. Clifford and the late STM Professor of New Testament Daniel Harrington, SJ.

Fr. Clifford has devoted his life to the study of Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, and the theological education of candidates for priesthood as well as lay men and women wanting to serve the Church. By his own estimation, he has taught some 4,000 students over his more than four decades in the classroom. He added that he knows about 40 percent of all Jesuits in the US because they are his former students.

In a recent interview, Fr. Clifford reflected on the dramatic changes in the student body since the 1970s. Once made up exclusively of religious students, the theological school’s student body is now much more diverse. Some 70 percent of students are lay men and women. About 25 percent of the students are from other countries. “It can be more challenging, but it is also more stimulating. In the end, it is good for the Church,” he said.

The tribute was organized by STM Associate Professor Thomas Stegman, SJ, chairman of the Ecclesiastical Faculty. "I thought it appropriate--as Dick transitions into a new phase of his career--that we honor his outstanding service as teacher, scholar, founding dean, and beloved colleague."

Fr. Leahy spoke of Fr. Clifford’s valuable role in the reaffiliation of Weston Jesuit School of Theology and Boston College to form the School of Theology and Ministry in 2008. He highlighted Fr. Clifford’s service as founding dean (2008-2010) and the skillful way he navigated STM in its early years through the transition.

 “I recall with great gratitude his generosity and commitment in taking on a demanding, at times quite difficult, challenge of working through the many complexities of bringing together two distinct academic programs with their own cultures and histories,” said Fr. Leahy.

“It is fair to say that Dick laid the foundation for this integration, and the current growth and success of the School of Theology and Ministry is testimony to his dedication and accomplishment. Clearly, Fr. Dick Clifford was the right man at the right time.”

Fr. Leahy went on to call Fr. Clifford “a living example…of someone committed to faith and scholarship in service of the Church and wider society.  Given the 400-hundred year history of the Jesuit education, what more or better could be said of a Jesuit teacher and scholar?”

Levenson, who has known Fr. Clifford for more than 40 years, paid tribute to his scholarly work. Fr. Clifford is a leading biblical scholar and author of several works, including Proverbs: A Commentary, The Wisdom Literature,  Psalms 1-72, and Psalms 73-150. He has also written many articles and is the guide for “Enjoying the Old Testament,” a multimedia 24-lecture presentation on the Old Testament.

A graduate of Holy Cross, Fr. Clifford earned a doctorate in biblical studies from Harvard University. He was general editor of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly and is a former president of the Catholic Biblical Association.

During the event, Fr. Clifford and Fr. Harrington’s brother, Ed, were each presented with a copy of Biblical Essays in Honor of Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, and Richard J. Clifford, SJ (Paulist Press). Co-edited by STM colleagues Fr. Stegman, Research Professor Christopher R. Matthews and Christopher Frechette, the Festschrift features essays from 18 scholars with personal and professional connections to the honorees. According to the editors, Biblical Essays not only honors Frs. Harrington and Clifford, but it also illustrates an important interpretive phenomenon: the use and reuse of Scripture.

--Kathleen Sullivan, Office of News & Public Affairs,