News, On Campus

Remembering Former STM Dean Rev. Thomas D. Stegman, S.J.

Rev. Thomas D. Stegman, S.J., a New Testament scholar and former dean of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (STM), died on April 8 after a battle with glioblastoma, according to a University release. He was 60 years old. 

“It would be difficult to overstate just how loved and respected Tom was in the STM community and how centrally he figured in its life during the many years he served as a faculty member and as dean,” STM Dean Rev. Michael C. McCarthy, S.J., said in the release.

Stegman previously served as dean for five and a half years before deciding to step down at the end of the 2022 spring semester to focus on his health. 

“With the departure of Thomas Stegman, I feel one of my voices at Boston College is silenced because he is someone with whom I knew I could have a … genuine conversation,” said Rev. Marcel Uwineza, S.J., one of Stegman’s former students and dean of the Jesuit School of Theology at Hekima University College in Nairobi, Kenya. “With the departure of Father Thomas Stegman, the Society [of Jesus] loses one of its key members.”

As a leader, Stegman remained true to BC’s Jesuit Catholic values by devoting himself to supporting STM students and faculty, according to Colleen Griffith, professor of the practice of theology and faculty director of spiritual studies.

“We talk about cura personalis … care for the full person, and certainly he had a deep commitment to seeing to it that our programs reflected that for students,” Griffith said. “[And] I think he also had a really big interest in seeing that embodied in terms of care for faculty and staff as well.”

Associate professor of the Old Testament Andrew Davis, who first met Stegman as a master’s student at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, also noted his commitment to both his students and staff.

“One thing that stands out to me about Tom is how dedicated he was to his own teachers, and I think he fostered that same love and affection in his own students,” Davis said. “And so there’s something about Tom—it wasn’t just that he was a good teacher … he saw the value in his own teachers, and he gave credit to them also.”

Rev. Richard J. Clifford, S.J., professor emeritus of the Old Testament, said Stegman was unique in his ability to be strategic and objective in his duties as dean while also continuing his efforts to form meaningful connections with those around him. 

“He was extremely friendly, and people had enormous respect and they liked to spend time with him because he paid attention to them, and he knew them well and accepted them,” Clifford said. “He was remarkable in his ability to put those two things together.”

During his tenure as dean, the STM rose to 10th overall in theology, divinity, and religious studies in the QS World University Rankings, according to the release.

The release also said the STM established the Committee on Race and Ethnicity to advance racial justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion; Formación Continua, a program offering continuing education courses and webinars in Spanish; and the spirituality studies program during his time as dean.

“[Spiritual studies is] one of his legacy pieces, in terms of a direction and a further direction for the school,” Griffith said. “The school has some marvelous degree programs as is but this focus and concentration and coming to it with more development is definitely something that I think was his vision, and he left that with us.”

According to Uwineza, Stegman remained committed to his students and staff even after stepping down as dean due to his illness.

“Recently, this past September, I was appointed the president of Hekima University College, here in Nairobi, and I do vividly recall that Tom Stegman heard about it, and he immediately wrote me an email,” Uwineza said. “In his last months he was still sick, but he wrote me a … message to celebrate me and said ‘I knew the Society [of Jesus] can count on you.’”

And during his last months as dean, Griffith said Stegman remained committed to his work despite his fight with glioblastoma. She recalled him coming to work even on days he had received radiation treatment that same morning.

“Most people, I think, would probably take the day off after that, but … he had made up his mind to live life to the fullest,” Griffith said.  “I always think he was a big sports fan, and … when the ball dropped into his court, Tom Stegman was always going to be ready to play with it.”

April 16, 2023