Jerry Cobb, S.J., is embarking on a new chapter. After 21 years at SU, Jerry Cobb, S.J., is taking a leave of absence to become the provincial assistant for formation and the provincial assistant for higher education for the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus. At a reception next week (3:30-5 p.m., May 26, Casey Atrium), the Seattle University community will have an opportunity to wish Father Cobb well in his new endeavors and to thank him for the ways in which he has made this university better.
And there are many! From the central role he played in the conceptualization and construction of the Chapel of St. Ignatius, to his untiring effort to bring more artwork to the campus to his leadership of the Sullivan Scholars program to his success in helping so many SU students earn prestigious Truman Scholarships, few have had such an enormous impact as Fr. Cobb has on this institution.
As the academic year wound down, Cobb took time to speak with The Commons about his new responsibilities, what the future holds for him and what he treasures most about his 21 years at SU.
Q: Could you describe your new jobs?
Father Cobb: Yes, as Provincial Assistant for Formation I will be supporting and supervising the education and training of about thirty younger Jesuits studying for the priesthood. And as Provincial Assistant for Higher Education I will be supporting efforts to strengthen Jesuit identity and mission at Gonzaga and at Seattle University, as well as at other Jesuit universities.
Q: Is there a chance you will return to SU?
Father Cobb: Yes, technically I am taking a leave of absence so I will continue to be a tenured professor in the English department. With Jesuits it is always possible that I will get assigned to other tasks and not return to SU, but it is also possible that after a year or two I will be able to do these two jobs from a base here at Seattle University and still be able to teach.
Q: As you think back over your 21 years at SU, what has been most fulfilling for you?
Father Cobb: Certainly chairing the committee that selected Steven Holl to design the Chapel of St. Ignatius was a real high point, and working to build the campus art collection has also been consoling. But really my work with the Sullivan Scholars, the Truman Scholar candidates, and other students has been the most fulfilling part of my time at SU. I have had terrific colleagues in the English department where I was privileged to serve as chair, and I’ve had a chance to work with other SU faculty and staff on a wide variety of fascinating projects.
Q: How did you react when the Sullivan Scholar alumni set up an endowed scholarship in your name?
Father Cobb: Well, first of all, it was a complete surprise to me when the alumni at our reunion last month announced this scholarship. I was deeply touched because I’d always hoped the Sullivans would give back to SU as alumni. I didn’t think they would do it in this way.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about your new roles with the province?
Father Cobb: I’m looking forward to working with young Jesuits who want to make a positive difference in the life of the Church at a time when the Church is going through a major crisis of credibility. Jesuit universities are also at an important moment of embracing their mission and character, so I look forward to helping to promote that mission at Gonzaga and SU.
Q: When will you be leaving?
Father Cobb: The university’s formal farewell takes place on May 26, but I won’t move to Portland until August 1. So I hope to have plenty of time to say farewells to folks.
Again, the farewell reception for Father Cobb will take place 3:30-5 p.m., next Wednesday, May 26, in Casey Atrium.