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Extra Credit: Thomas Kennealy, S.J.,

By France Griggs Sloat

Known for his quiet, unassuming ways, Thomas Kennealy, S.J., has been a fixture at Xavier for 37 years, the last 16 as associate dean of both the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Social Sciences. This year, he stepped down—but not out—taking on the position as part-time University archivist.

 

In April, he was honored with the Paul L. O’Connor Leadership Award in recognition of his legacy of dedication and selfless service and in September turns 75 years old. Kennealy shared some of his thoughts with Xavier magazine about his time at Xavier:

“This is going to be something quite new and challenging. The archivist by tradition has been a Jesuit. It’s something of a tradition moving over there. I’ll be learning from scratch.”

“I may also engage in other pastoral activities such as retreats or celebrating Mass in other parishes. To meet new people and new faces and to be of help is very satisfying.”

“I was assigned here, and I knew Xavier well and felt I could fit in well. Our Milford credentials were awarded through Xavier, and I was very happy to come back, and I never left. God has blessed me very abundantly.”

“I spent several summers in France. I stayed in Paris at the Jesuit residence and once at Versailles with the Little Sisters of the Poor. They run a home for elderly poor there. I met one man for about three hours every day, and we talked in French. We talked about books and his experiences in World War II, the Nazi occupation of Versailles, French politics, geography and literature. After he died, his son wrote me a wonderful letter about what his father had said in his diary about our conversations.”

“Most enjoyable is simply working with the students. When I first took the job, there was a directory of admissions that read: ‘Students are never an interruption, they’re the reason we are here.’ I took that to heart. I came in the tumultuous era of the 1960s and 1970s, and clearly that generation was more challenging. Today growing up in our society is probably more difficult. They’re well meaning, sincere, earnest but a bit stressed.”

“Issuing suspensions, probations and dismissals is my least favorite part of the job, but it has to be done, and it must be done carefully and with sensitivity to all the persons involved. That’s what makes it difficult.”

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