Fr. W. Norris Clarke, SJ – 1917-2008


Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus relays the news that W. Norris Clarke, SJ has died:

He was, over his long life, the indefatigable teacher, enthusiastically discovering with each new generation of students at Fordham University the inexhaustible riches of the Angelic Doctor.

In season and out, he sought to demonstrate, in the face of every new philosophical fashion or school, that St. Thomas had been there first. He was the original inspiration for my definition of a Thomist of the Strict Observance: Someone who believes that Thomas is the hardware that will run any software. I was never entirely persuaded, but his many books — for instance, The Philosophical Approach to God, The One and the Many: A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics, and interviews in The Universe as Journey — are warmly recommended to anyone seriously interested in exploring the riches of the Christian intellectual tradition.

Please join in the prayer that Father W. Norris Clarke will be welcomed with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Via Fordham U. “Services Set for W. Norris Clarke, S.J., Professor and Thomist Philosopher”:

A native New Yorker, Father Clarke was born in 1915 and attended Loyola High School. He graduated, enrolled at Georgetown University in 1931 and entered the Society of Jesus two years later.

His deepening interest in Thomist philosophy was developed at College St. Louis in England in 1936. He continued his studies at Fordham, earning a master’s in philosophy in 1939. He earned his doctorate from Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, where he studied under Roman Catholic philosopher Louis De Raeymaeker.

Father Clarke was ordained into the priesthood in 1945 and joined the Fordham faculty 10 years later as an assistant professor of philosophy. He taught for three decades before becoming an emeritus professor in 1985.

In 1961, Father Clarke helped found the International Philosophy Quarterly (IPQ), a journal promoting philosophical dialogue between Europe and the Americas. He served as editor until his 1985 retirement.

Even though officially retired, Father Clarke continued to teach in Fordham’s philosophy department and to publish articles. In 2007, he was honored by his peers at a philosophy colloquium on campus, where he presented a talk, “Integration of Personalism and Thomistic Metaphysics in Twentieth-Century Thomism.”

Father Clarke considered his philosophical journey as one moving from strict Thomism to a perspective revitalizing Thomistic philosophy to include an “implicit dimension of personalism.” He felt that the latter was inspired by the writings of Pope John Paul II.

The colloquium coincided with publication of a revised edition of his 1979 book, The Philosophical Approach To God (Fordham University Press, 2007). Additionally, the Press will publish a book of his essays on Thomistic philosophy in the fall of 2008, The Creative Retrieval of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

The author of eight books and more than 70 articles, Father Clarke was the recipient of numerous awards, among them the “Aquinas Medal” from the American Catholic Philosophical Association and a Fordham “Outstanding Teacher Award.” He held honorary doctorates from Villanova University and Wheeling Jesuit College.

In June 2000, International Philosophy Quarterly published a Festschrift in honor of Father Clarke’s 85th birthday and his longstanding editorial service. Presenting articles were religious philosopher Louis Dupré, the T. Lawrason Riggs professor of the philosophy of religion at Yale University, and the late Gerald A. McCool, S.J., (FCRH ’40) professor emeritus of philosophy and former chair of the department.

Father Clarke resided at Loyola Hall, where he was house confessor.

His wake will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. on Sunday, June 15 in the Loyola Hall Chapel on Fordham’s Rose Hill campus, and his funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, June 16 in Fordham’s University Church.

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