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Seattle University


Thank You, Fr. Reichmann!

Written by Mike Thee
April 22, 2013

James Reichmann, S.J., first came to Seattle University in 1955 at the age of 32. The professor of philosophy continued to teach six classes a year until 2009. Now at the age of 90, after teaching for a total of 49 years at SU and living in the Jesuit community for 53 years, Fr. Reichmann is preparing to leave the university this summer to live in the Jesuit Senior Apostolic Community in Spokane. The SU community is gathering to celebrate Fr. Reichmann from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24, in Casey Commons. 

The Commons asked a number of Fr. Reichmann's Jesuit brothers and colleagues to share some words about this incredible individual. Here are their responses.

Fr. Jim Reichmann's conclusion of his many decades of service at Seattle University is an historical event. His departure from our campus marks the end of a particular era of Jesuits who were the heart and soul of the university we are now privileged to continue to carry on. I think of Jesuits such as Frs. Lou Gaffney, Vern Harkins, Lou Sauvain, Connie O'Leary, Frank Lindekugel, Joe Donovan, Jim Royce, Jim King, Harry Kohls, Joe Maguire, Bill LeRoux, and dozens more who were the Jesuit companions of his times and gave their lives in service to the students of this university. He outlasted them all! His legacy and theirs continues on in us; for this we are most grateful.

- Stephen Sundborg, S.J., president

I have breakfast every morning with Frs. Jim Reichmann and Bob Egan. Bob and I can set our watches by Jim's arrival each morning at precisely 7:22 a.m. On the rare days he arrives at 7:30, we can kid him about how late he is. 

Fr. Reichmann's wit, good humor, infinite capacity for puns and his ever curious mind (peppered with questions) have enlivened our Jesuit community all these many years. He has been an amazingly productive scholar and sought-after teacher of philosophy because of his clarity and fairness. Just two months ago he published the lead article (60-pages) on the philosophy of Edith Stein in the Catholic Philosophical journal.   

We will miss him dearly, but are consoled that we can meet up with him on summer vacation at Hayden Lake, Idaho, where he takes his daily two mile swim.

- Patrick Howell S.J., rector of the Jesuit community

At the very first meeting I attended at SU back in the summer of 1988, Fr. Reichmann had a heart attack. (Philosophy Professor) Rob Deltete gave him CPR and basically saved his life. 25 years later Fr. Reichmann still graces us with his presence. This might remind us of how contingent the course of events really is in that we might have been deprived of a quarter-century of Fr. Reichmann were it not for Rob's efforts. That would have been quite a loss.

Fr. Reichmann is known as a very serious man. Hence, I will never forget the irony involved when I talked with a former student named Holly Reichmann who referred to him as "Uncle Jimmy."  It's funny how different "Fr. Reichmann" sounds when contrasted with "Uncle Jimmy."

- Dan Dombrowski, professor of philosophy

As a former student of Fr. Reichmann, who taught me third  year Latin at Gonzaga High School way back in 1948, I wanted to join in honoring Fr. Reichmann on the occasion of his completing his lengthy ministry and teaching role here at Seattle University. I don't know anyone who enjoyed teaching more than Fr. Reichmann. He remarked to me humorously one time that it was really unjust that he was given a salary for teaching because he enjoyed it so much. 

Altogether this remarkable Jesuit taught over 50 years with most of it being here in the philosophy department. Not only was he a mainstay for his department, he taught for years in the Honors Program and opened up the minds of his eager students to the wisdom and genius of St. Thomas.

Besides his busy teaching apostolate in the university Fr. Reichmann has generously served the Church and Catholic community here in the Seattle area in many different ways.  He has celebrated Mass and heard confessions at the Carmelite monastery for many years, has frequently offered help to local parishes for Masses in both English and Spanish, and has been a regular confessor at the Cathedral.

The Jesuit community will surely miss Fr. Reichmann, as well as his many colleagues and friends in the University.  Thanks, Fr. James, for you many wonderful years of teaching and priestly ministry here in Seattle.  The Lord bless your coming years as you move to the Jesuit community in Spokane.

- Bob Egan, S.J., member of SU Jesuit community

Lovingly we called him the Iron Chancellor, principally because he followed strictly the vows of his Jesuit priesthood and the policies of the University when he was chairperson of the Department of Philosophy. You could count on him to be fair. And you could set your watch by him, never a minute late to his office or his daily walk around the margins of the campus. I deeply admire these qualities in him. 

When the university decided to tear down Marion Hall to make way for the quad in front of Casey, Fr. Reichmann predictably resisted the move. His office in Marion was one of the large corner offices with windows on two sides and very comfortably furnished. Fr. Bill Sullivan thought it would require a crane to pull him out that "medieval sanctuary," as Bill called it, lest Father go down with the building. "Medieval" is the right word. Although a very contemporary thinker, Fr. Reichmann is still regarded as a world class scholar in Medieval philosophy, particularly the works of St. Thomas Aquinas. When I visited him for lunch last summer in Arrupe House he had just completed another essay on St. Thomas, comparing the wisdom of the Angelic Doctor to the writings of St. Edith Stein. He is a Jesuit who truly benefits from the gift of time accorded to the teaching apostolate, and he doesn't waste a moment of it. He continues his research and writing to this very day, and as a teacher, he was eminently available to his students who were his first priority and to his colleagues. It was a great pleasure for me to use from 1978 until 2004 his highly incisive textbook in my Core course on the Philosophy of the Human Person, a textbook that kept alive for me and my students the Jesuit liberal learning tradition rooted in a moderate realist epistemology.

I will visit Fr. Reichmann this summer when I am working in Spokane, and look forward to being greeted by his welcoming eyes and the charism of his smile, and to discuss with him once again Thomas' argument for the immortality of the human soul.

- Pat Burke, professor emeritus, dean of Gonzaga in Florence

Fr. Reichmann:

I wish you well in Spokane. Since you moved out of Casey I've experienced severe pun withdrawal and there's no one here to tell me the stairs aren't broken. It is definitely hard getting through the winter without you telling me every morning, when you come in, how many minutes of daylight we gained the previous day. That may sound crazy but it actually did help on all those days of coming to and leaving work in the dark. 

When I first started working in philosophy you were celebrating 50 years as a Jesuit and the department took you out for Chinese food at your favorite restaurant in Ballard. I remember thinking this was a good department: Jesuits who stay here 50 years and great Chinese food.

I'm sad to see you leave and hope all goes well in Spokane.

- Kate Reynolds, administrative assistant, Philosophy Department


CLICK HERE for a feature that appeared in The Commons in 2010 when Father Reichmann received the Loyola Medal from Matteo Ricci College.