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In Memoriam: Jonathan Trejo-Mathys, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Chestnut Hill, Mass. (12-4-14) -- A memorial Mass will be held at St. Ignatius Church on Saturday, December 6 at 10 a.m. for Assistant Professor of Philosophy Jonathan Trejo-Mathys, who died November 28 after a long battle with cancer. He was 35.

Jonathan Trejo-Mathys
Jonathan Trejo-Mathys. (Photo by Chris Soldt/MTS)

Dr. Trejo-Mathys, a specialist in social and political philosophy, joined the Philosophy Department in 2011. He taught both undergraduates and graduate students in courses such as Perspectives, Philosophy of Law and Ethics, Globalization and Critical Theory, among others. His work related philosophy to current issues of globalization and international justice. Though he had been at Boston College a relatively short amount of time, he had already begun to make a mark on the intellectual life of the University, according to many of his colleagues.

Dr. Trejo-Mathys was part of the core team of the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy. "His vision about what a world-class Center should look like has shaped what we do in good measure," said Clough Center Director Vlad Perju, an associate professor at BC Law School. "We co-taught a seminar on global constitutionalism just as he was starting cancer treatment. I was as impressed as his students by his imaginative yet lucid and always generous mind."

Dr. Trejo-Mathys also led a 2013 Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life event on “Political Obligation in the World Society,” in which he discussed how philosophy can help people to understand their moral obligations in an interconnected global society.

Philosophy Department Chairman Professor Arthur Madigan, SJ, called Dr. Trejo-Mathys’ work in political and legal philosophy important. In a correspondence with Dr. Trejo-Mathys last month he wrote, “We wish that you could have had many years to continue and deepen that work at Boston College. We would have loved for you to make tenure and promotion and professorship and do a lifetime of good work among us.”

"Jonathan had an incandescent mind and the soul to match it. He was dazzling in conversation, generous as a teacher, an elegant writer and a deep thinker. He was a loving father and an irreplaceable friend," said Perju. "His loss to the world of ideas is truly profound."

“Jonathan and I co-taught what turned out to be his final course--a graduate seminar on modern political philosophy,” said Associate Professor of Philosophy Jeff Bloechl. “He was not always well during our Wednesday afternoons together, and got weaker as time passed, but he always pulled himself together as we walked to the classroom, whereupon, to my amazement, he sometimes held forth for a half-hour at a time, leading us into the complexities of modern German thought, contemporary politics and ongoing current events. When I asked him how he did it, he said that teaching calmed him and that our students gave him energy.”

“He was passionate about his work and so committed to his students,”  said BC Law Professor Frank Garcia who took over Dr. Trejo-Mathys’ Global Justice and Obligation course when he got sick.

Garcia recalled a recent session he had with Dr. Trejo-Mathys, who spent two hours sharing his knowledge of the theories of German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, a body of thought Garcia was eager to learn more about. “It was so generous. He loved teaching students and teaching colleagues.”

Fidele Ingiyimbere, SJ, a doctoral student in the Philosophy Department, described Dr. Trejo-Mathys as a teacher, advisor and friend. “He was very bright and a very good teacher. He was always open to discussion and often I would pop into his office. We had a common interest in international justice, not just the theoretical but in a practical way.”

Posted outside Dr. Trejo-Mathys’ office door is an adage from Simone Weil: "Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity."

“As his friend and co-teacher, I saw how much he believed in that idea. He was first of all a husband and father, but he was also a wonderful teacher and remarkable human being,” said Bloechl.

Dr. Trejo-Mathys earned a doctorate from Northwestern University in 2009, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the Justitia Amplificata Centre for Advanced Studies at Goethe Universität in Germany. From 2006-07 he was a Fulbright Scholar at Goethe Universität. He earned his undergraduate degree from DePaul University in Chicago.

Fluent in German and Spanish, he served as a translator for Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity. He was a member of the Global Justice Network, a forum for promoting exchange and accessible research in global justice. Domination and Global Political Justice: Conceptual, Historical and Institutional Perspectives, a volume he co-edited, is scheduled to be published in 2015.

Garcia said despite the pain and radiation and other trials of his illness, Dr. Trejo-Mathys exhibited a “strong faith.”

“He was a man of great faith,” echoed Fr. Ingiyimbere, who provided pastoral care for Dr. Trejo-Mathys throughout their friendship, including his final days.

Dr. Trejo-Mathys is survived by his wife Magdalena (Maggie) Trejo-Mathys, their two daughters, Maya and Micaela, and his parents Jon Mathys and Lera Chittwood.

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