News, Top Story, Administration

STM Dean To Step Down Amid Battle with Cancer

Rev. Thomas D. Stegman, S.J., is stepping down as dean of the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) at the end of the spring semester due to his ongoing battle with glioblastoma, according to a University release.

Thomas Groome, a professor of theology and religious education, wrote in an email to The Heights that Stegman’s leadership as dean strengthened the University’s Jesuit values

“Fr. Tom Stegman has been an outstanding Dean of Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry,” Groome wrote. “His leadership has embodied the best of the Ignatian charism, ever with wide consultation, careful discernment, and decisive leadership, all for the greater glory of God – never his own.”

Stegman announced his resignation to STM faculty in a December letter, according to Margaret E. Guider, O.S.F., the chair of ecclesiastical faculty and an associate professor of missiology at the STM. 

“He didn’t just wait for the University announcement,” she said. “Tom wanted the people who he knows he matters to and the people who matter to him to be informed about his resignation before it became a public statement.”

Stegman has been dealing with glioblastoma for a few years and has been treated with chemotherapy and radiation, according to Rev. Thomas Massaro, S.J., who said he went to school with Stegman at the Western Jesuit School of Theology and later worked with him at BC. 

“He’s suffered a great deal,” said Massaro, a professor at Fordham University and former professor at the STM. “Yet he continues to soldier on … already exceeding the doctor’s expectations. And so it makes sense that he would be able to step down and take care of his health.” 

Guider said that Stegman’s transparency surrounding his illness is commendable. 

“Tom has shown us how to acknowledge what the limits and possibilities of our lives are and that we can manage challenges … if we are open to relationships of interdependency,” she said. “He has modeled how one can continue to offer leadership and be engaged, and yet acknowledge one’s vulnerability,” Guider said. 

In an email to The Heights, Oanh Ngo, BC ’21, detailed Stegman’s immense dedication to his students. 

“He was willing to answer all [of] my questions,” she wrote. “He read very carefully and helped to correct every detail of my 100-page thesis.” 

Ngo said that although Stegman faced health challenges, he remained positive and supportive to others, which has inspired her own ministry—biblical teachings throughout Vietnam.

“I hope that while I am doing my ministry, I also let Christ act in me so that many people can recognize God’s kingdom in this world,” she wrote. “[Stegman] completely devotes his life for others. He lets his behavior and way of care for others reflect Christ’s love.” 

Rev. Richard J. Clifford, S.J., a professor of the Old Testament, said he taught Stegman at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology and now works with him at BC. 

“What stands out … is his ability to combine qualities often thought to be incompatible,” Clifford wrote in an email to The Heights. “As a scholar, perceptive, deep [and] able to communicate effectively to students; as an administrator, strategic [and] attentive to people and their differences.”

According to Massaro, Stegman’s introduction of the Spirituality Studies Program and the Committee on Race and Ethnicity at the STM exemplified his thoughtful deanship. 

“The growth of the spirituality programs … is an outgrowth of Stegman’s own spiritual life,” Massaro said. “He cares a great deal about assisting people who have been marginalized … and the initiatives were a response to a need for reckoning our country’s past. He’s part of the reason BC has had a real leading role in this issue.” 

Groome said he is grateful for Stegman’s dedication to the STM and wishes him well as he steps down. 

“Under his wise deanship, the STM has emerged as perhaps the leading Catholic center in the world for the preparation of people for lay and ordained ministry and faith-based service,” he wrote. “Most impressive of all has been Tom’s faith-filled witness – even good humor – as he battles glioblastoma. He has our deep gratitude and hopeful prayers.”

Due to health issues and prior commitments, Stegman was unable to be interviewed for this story.

BC has not yet announced who will be the next dean of the STM.

Featured Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

January 30, 2022