School of Theology and Ministry Dean Thomas D. Stegman, S.J., who helped create a caring, close-knit community among STM students and faculty while leading the school to the upper echelons in global rankings, has announced that he will step down from his position at the end of the spring semester.
A popular dean and professor, internationally respected New Testament scholar, and author of six books on faith, biblical scholarship, and the interpretation of the Pauline letters, Fr. Stegman, who has served as dean for five and a half years, said his decision to step down follows the advice of his medical team at Dana Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to attend to his health in his ongoing battle with glioblastoma.
“I have enjoyed being able to serve the STM as dean in ways I never imagined as a faculty member,” said Fr. Stegman. “I'm very proud that the School—along with the Theology Department—has gained greater external recognition. I am also proud of the faculty and staff hires we have made and are making, of facilitating the addition of seven nihil obstats in the Ecclesastical Faculty, and of the palpable sense of community one feels when entering Simboli Hall.”
During his tenure as dean, Boston College rose to seventh overall in Theology, Divinity & Religious Studies in the QS World University Rankings, considered the foremost international survey of theological studies programs. The STM also achieved a significant increase in domestic and international students who were drawn to the school for its academic programs in theology and ministry, and an increasingly diverse faculty, reflecting the strategic priorities Fr. Stegman set for the school as dean.
He also established the Spirituality Studies Program, the Committee on Race and Ethnicity to address diversity and inclusion issues within the school, and a popular program called Formacíon Continua, which offers continuing education courses in Spanish for learners worldwide. In addition, he created a partnership with Jesuit Relief Services in which STM faculty developed a curriculum called “Building Relationships in Troubled Contexts” to assist those working in refugee camps, and secured funding for the Henry R. Cavalieri Jesuit Fellowship Fund to bring international Jesuit scholars to the STM and provide funding for Jesuits to study at the school.
“The first strategic direction from the School of Theology and Ministry’s mission statement is to ‘continue efforts to establish the STM as a premier Catholic institution for theological scholarship and for intellectual and pastoral formation of priests, religious, and lay women and men,’” said Fr. Stegman. “We are doing what we should be doing, and thanks to our faculty and our students' good will and passion, I think the STM is positioned well to grow and to respond pastorally and theologically to the needs of the Church and world.”
“Tom has been an extraordinary leader and leaves the school in a very strong position to help educate the next generation of religious and lay leaders for the Catholic Church.”
Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley lauded Fr. Stegman for his extraordinary leadership.
“Tom Stegman's six years as dean commenced with his travel to Rome to participate in the 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus,” said Quigley. “He returned to campus and articulated a compelling vision for the School of Theology and Ministry while developing strong relationships with faculty and administrators across the University. Tom has been an extraordinary leader and leaves the school in a very strong position to help educate the next generation of religious and lay leaders for the Catholic Church.”
STM faculty offered praise and gratitude for Fr. Stegman for his inspiring leadership in guiding the school as dean.
“Dean Stegman's love for the School of Theology and Ministry and his commitment to its flourishing have been unwavering,” said Colleen Griffith, faculty director of spiritual studies and professor of the practice of theology in the STM. “His courage and faithful witness to the gospel have been an inspiration to STM faculty, staff, and students. He has led our school with integrity and fairness, embodying the highest of Jesuit ideals. His wisdom and grace are lasting gifts to our community.”
“What makes Tom an outstanding scholar, teacher, and dean is his human touch,” said Ecclesiastical Faculty Associate Professor Andrew Davis. “His writing and teaching exemplify how scripture can be alive in communities today, and as dean he has inspired the STM community to live more fully in its mission of service to the Church and world. He will be greatly missed as dean by all of us in the STM community.”
A member of the USA Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Stegman was raised in Holdrege, Nebraska, and joined the Society of Jesus in 1985. A graduate of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, he received an M.A. (Philosophy) from Marquette University, and both a master’s in divinity and an S.T.L. (Hebrew Bible) from Weston Jesuit School of Theology. He earned a Ph.D. in New Testament studies at Emory University, under the direction of renowned theologian Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson, and began his teaching career at Emory as Johnson’s teaching assistant. He taught at Weston from 2003-2008, and has held visiting chairs at Marquette and Creighton universities.
Dean Stegman's love for the School of Theology and Ministry and his commitment to its flourishing have been unwavering. His courage and faithful witness to the gospel have been an inspiration to STM faculty, staff, and students. He has led our school with integrity and fairness, embodying the highest of Jesuit ideals.
Highly respected among Jesuits, Fr. Stegman represented the Midwest Province at the 2012 Procurators Congregation in Nairobi and at the 36th General Congregation in Rome in 2016.
A talented high school baseball player, he remains an avid fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Green Bay Packers.
In a December letter to STM faculty, Stegman said that the ability to serve as dean has given real meaning and a sense of purpose to him these past few years, and kept him from dwelling on his medical condition.
“The goal of the medical team is to make my illness a ‘chronic condition,’ by which they mean that while there is no cure, we will try to stay ahead of the glioblastoma for as long as we can and take care of things as they arise,” he wrote.
“My goal is to be able to finish my decanal term through the spring semester and graduation, which would make it a six-year term. Through the good graces of the Provost’s and President’s offices, if God grants me health and life beyond this school year, I will be given a sabbatical in 2022-2023. I still have two books in me, I think, and that is what I‘ll work on. And if I am still around following my sabbatical, I’d be happy and honored to return to the Ecclesiastical Faculty to teach courses in the New Testament.”
Information about the search for Fr. Stegman’s successor will be released shortly. An event to celebrate his tenure as dean is being planned for the spring.
Jack Dunn | University Communications | January 2022