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New Gaffney Chair

Written by Mike Thee
July 22, 2010

Ted Fortier, associate professor of anthropology, is the new Reverend Louis Gaffney Chair in the College of Arts and Sciences. Named for the former SU president and psychology professor, the Gaffney Chair is awarded every two years to a member of the Arts and Sciences faculty who is dedicated to promoting issues relating to Jesuit mission and identity.

“Please join me in congratulating Ted in receiving this honor,” Dean David Powers wrote in announcing Fortier’s selection to the College of Arts and Sciences faculty. “I look forward to the significant contributions to the campus community’s experience of Jesuit mission and identity he will make in this role.”

Powers went on to acknowledge Fortier’s work with indigenous peoples throughout the world, including tribes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska; Mayans in Chiapas, Mexico; and peoples of the First Nations in Canada. “Focusing on spiritual elements, cultural adaptation, and historic events,” wrote Powers, “(Fortier) has conducted field research (on) cultural memory, resistance, environmental justice, faith and identity.”

“I’m very honored and excited to be named the Gaffney Chair,” said Fortier. “The reason I was brought to Seattle University was because of my work with Native Americans and their interactions with Jesuits. Many people do not realize that the Jesuits came to the Northwest on the invitation of a delegation of Columbia Plateau Indians to St. Louis.”

As Gaffney Chair, Fortier will explore the rich history and continuing relationships between the Jesuits and indigenous peoples. He has set an ambitious agenda involving a variety of events and guest speakers, and covering such topics as: history of the Jesuit encounters with the indigenous in the Northwest; today’s indigenous spiritual leaders of the Northwest; Jesuit and Indian collaboration for economic and environmental justice; Jesuit and Indian collaboration in higher education; and the future of being Indian, Catholic and Jesuit in higher education.

“I knew Father Gaffney and how important the identity of SU as a Jesuit Catholic university was to him, and how he worked to make the university more available to everybody,” said Fortier.

“The opportunity to devote the next two years to promoting issues of indigenous identity, justice and education is exactly the nexus of my career, the Jesuit’s long history of commitment to the Indigenous people of the world and the possibilities of this university. It’s quite an honor.”

Fortier will formally be installed as Gaffney Chair with a ceremony during the upcoming academic year.