Mark S. Massa, S.J., dean of the School of Theology and Ministry since 2010, will leave his current position to become the next director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life beginning the summer of 2017, the University announced today. He will replace the center’s founding director, Alan Wolfe, who is retiring in early 2017.
Fr. Massa, who had served as the Karl Rahner Professor of Theology and director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University prior to assuming the deanship of STM, is an esteemed theologian and scholar whose research has focused on the Catholic experience in the United States since World War II.
In announcing the appointment, Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley praised Fr. Massa as an ideal choice to lead the Boisi Center after having elevated STM to national prominence during the past six years.
“A leading historian of Catholicism in the United States, Mark Massa has successfully led the School of Theology and Ministry since 2010. Under his watch, the school has attracted a community of very talented students and faculty, and Mark has helped sustain a serious-minded conversation about how STM can best serve the contemporary Catholic Church—in Boston, across the nation, and around the world.”
Fr. Massa said he was proud of what he has accomplished as dean at STM, including building a superb faculty, one-third of whom he hired.
“I came in 2010 with the goal of further incorporating the School of Theology and Ministry into the ethos and mission of a great national research university,” said Fr. Massa. “The faculty hires we made and the students we attracted have enabled us to compete directly with Harvard and Yale divinity schools and the University of Notre Dame. The faculty culture of STM is now the culture of Boston College—one that reflects a commitment to teaching and publishing and being national leaders in our academic fields, and our students are highly sought after because of the acknowledged strength of our program. I am very proud of all we have accomplished together.”
Quigley said that Fr. Massa will remain as STM dean until the end of the academic year and then embark on a sabbatical before joining the Theology Department faculty and taking leadership of the Boisi Center in 2017. He noted that Erik Owens, associate director of the Boisi Center and associate professor of the practice in theology and international studies, will direct the center during the coming academic year.
The Boisi Center, founded in 1999 through an endowed gift from Trustee Associate Geoffrey T. Boisi ’69 and his wife Rene (Isacco) Boisi ’69, brings together scholars, policy makers, religious leaders and media for conversations and scholarly reflections around issues at the intersection of religion and American public life. Through Wolfe, one of the nation’s leading public intellectuals, the center has sponsored popular courses and seminars and hosted visiting scholars for discussions that examine religious issues within the context of America’s growing religious diversity.
“Alan is a star who has made the Boisi Center a significant presence nationally in dealing with issues at the intersection of religion, culture and politics,” said Fr. Massa. “I look forward to working with Erik Owens and others at the center to continue that tradition, and to addressing other topics such as the role of religion in elections and how religion frames our understanding of ourselves.”
Quigley and Owens said the University plans to honor Wolfe with a conference on April 14, 2016 titled “Religion and American Public Life: The Calling of a Public Intellectual." In addition, Quigley said that he would work with University President William P. Leahy, S.J., and an interview committee to find a successor for Fr. Massa before the start of the 2016-2017 academic year.
The School of Theology and Ministry, which was founded in 2008 when the Weston Jesuit School of Theology re-affiliated with Boston College, is an international academic theological center dedicated to forming scholars, ministers and leaders for the Church. It attracts some 415 students annually from throughout the United States and more than 30 countries.
Jack Dunn | News & Public Affairs