Obituary: Fr. Bezuszka, Leader in Math and Science Reform
University's longest-serving faculty member, director of the BC Mathematics Institute and widely recognized leader of national efforts to improve American math and science programs remembered
ByA funeral Mass for Rev. Stanley J. Bezuszka, SJ, a mathematics teacher and department administrator at Boston College from 1939 until 2008, was celebrated on Dec. 31 at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at the Campion Center in Weston.
Fr. Bezuszka, who had been the University's longest-serving faculty member, was also the director of the Boston College Mathematics Institute and a widely recognized leader of national efforts to improve American math and science programs.
He died on Dec. 27, one month shy of his 95th birthday.
Born in Poland and raised in Lowell, Fr. Bezuszka came to Boston College as a Jesuit scholastic in 1939 and, with the exception of time spent in doctoral and advanced theological study, was a member of the University's mathematics faculty for more than 60 years.
"Since the summer of 1954, when I took my first course in mathematics with 'Father B,' he has been a role model and friend," said Prof. Margaret Kenney (Mathematics), assistant director of the Mathematics Institute.
"He was truly a source of inspiration to thousands of mathematics teachers in this country and abroad."
Fr. Bezuszka authored or co-authored more than 50 scholarly works on mathematics over the past 40 years and received numerous awards for his contributions to the field, including the Lifetime Achievement Award for Teaching from the Mathematics Education Trust Foundation of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Last November, the Association of Teachers of Mathematics of New England named its annual teaching and learning award in his honor. Fr. Bezuszka was the first recipient.
In addition to his renowned teaching skills, Fr. Bezuszka was well-known on campus for the basset hound dogs – "Rusty" and "Freckles" – that for many years accompanied him on his daily walks around campus, and for the beautiful rose garden at the southeast corner of St. Mary's Hall that he lovingly tended each spring and summer.
In 2003, in a tribute to his long service as a teacher and priest, a group of his former students donated a bench in front of that rose garden. The inscription on the bench reads simply: "Thanks, Father B."
Fr. Bezuszka also officiated at the marriages of scores of his former students and conference attendees, and later, baptized their children. "I used to tease him that the Word became flesh, not the number," said Rev. Harvey Egan, SJ, in a homily he delivered at Fr. Bezuszka's funeral.
"His presence at Boston College and at Campion was a living prayer," Fr. Egan said. "Even during the almost final months of his life at Campion, he was also busy planting flowers, doing math problems, and explaining the wonders of ultrasound to the staff."
Kenney added, "His ideas about mathematics content and pedagogy continued to engage him until the end," noting that Fr. Bezuzska was tutoring a local Boston high school student in basic mathematics principles until shortly before his death. "He had just completed a manuscript as illness overtook him at the end of June.
"His particular interest in mathematics was number theory. He often remarked, 'The gift of number, like the gift of fire, has made the world much brighter,'" Kenney said.
Fr. Bezuszka leaves a sister, Josephine Kososka, and several nieces and nephews. Burial was in Campion Cemetery, Weston. Donations in Fr. Bezuszka's memory may be made to the Jesuit Community, Campion Center, 319 Concord Road, Weston, Mass. 02493.