In Memoriam: Thomas J. Owens

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (1-29-16) — Thomas J. Owens, a faculty member in Philosophy Department at Boston College from 1957 to 2010, died on January 26. He was 93.

A Boston College alumnus, Dr. Owens earned a doctorate in philosophy from Fordham University. His areas of expertise were German philosophy, especially Martin Heidegger, and phenomenology. He was the author of the book Phenomenology and Intersubjectivity: Contemporary Interpretations of the Interpersonal Situation, among other works.

According to Philosophy Professor Patrick Byrne, who served as department chair from 2003 to 2010, when Dr. Owens began his career at BC he was one of a handful of dynamic, young faculty members who arrived when the department was transitioning to a new approach to teaching philosophy.

"Tom Owens was instrumental in the design of our doctoral program and worked closely with Fr. Joe Flanagan [Philosophy Dept. chair from 1965 to 1993] in setting up the Perspectives program," said Byrne.

"He was a very important advisor to all the Philosophy Department chairs," added Byrne. "He had wisdom and carefully thought things out. He was tremendously valuable."

“Tom was an excellent writer, one of the best writers I knew,” recalled Professor Emeritus of Philosophy Richard Cobb-Stevens, who served as department chair from 1993 to 2002. “If I were writing something, I’d run it by Tom and he would always add clarity.

“He was witty, too. He always gave good advice and was a wise counsel,” added Cobb-Stevens. “He could always be counted upon to serve on departmental or university committees where he came to be admired for his sensitivity and wisdom in human concerns  and his down to earth practical advice.”

Both Byrne and Cobb-Stevens praised Dr. Owens' teaching.

"He was an excellent teacher both on the graduate and undergraduate levels. In particular, he was very successful in teaching introductory and core courses," said Cobb-Stevens.

"He was a challenging teacher, especially to his graduate students," said Byrne. "He always made them think deeply about the philosophical questions."

Cobb-Stevens visited with Dr. Owens last year when he was recuperating in a nursing home. “He was totally at peace. He was a man of great faith and I think that gave him consolation.

"His was a happy and fruitful life. I will miss him," said Cobb-Stevens.

Dr. Owens was born in Saugus and grew up in Lynn. He is survived by his sister, Imelda Owens, and several nieces and a nephew.

A funeral Mass was celebrated Jan. 29 at Sacred Heart Church in Lynn. Burial was at St. Mary’s Cemetery.

--Kathleen Sullivan | News & Public Affairs