Fr. Edward Bodnar, S.J., passes away at 91

Father Edward W. Bodnar, S.J., passed away yesterday morning at the age of 91. Bodnar was a Classics professor at Georgetown from 1967 until his retirement in 1991. Holding degrees from Gonzaga and Princeton Universities, Bodnar specialized in the study of the Byzantine and Renaissance rediscovery of classical antiquity.

In an e-mail to the campus community, University Provost James O’Donnell recalled fondly one of his closest friends at Georgetown. “His gentle way, his keen intellect, and that distinctive twinkle will be remembered by many,” O’Donnell said, “including a Provost for whom he has been his ‘oldest’ Georgetown friend, dating from our meeting in Woodrow Wilson’s living room 35 years ago.” In addition to his life-long dedication to scholarship, Bodnar was an avid fan of Hoya basketball and Prairie Home Companion.

On Friday, a wake will be held at the Jesuit residence in Wolfington Hall from 3-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Bodnar’s funeral will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. in Dahlgren Chapel.

O’Donnell’s e-mail is available after the jump:

Fr. Edward W. Bodnar SJ passed away this morning; he was 91.  There will be a wake in the Jesuit residence (Wolfington Hall) on Friday, December 2, from 3-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.  The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday in Dahlgren chapel, where he said Mass himself times literally beyond counting.

Father Bodnar was born in 1920 in West Point, New York, where his father played in the post band before moving family to Washington to join the US Marine Band.  Edward Bodnar graduated from Gonzaga and came to Georgetown but left after two years to enter the Jesuit novitiate.  He was ordained in June 1952 and so passed away just a few months shy of 60 years in the priesthood.  With a Ph.D. from Princeton in 1958, he concentrated his scholarship on the work of the indefatigable Cyriac of Ancona, a merchant traveler from Italy in the 15th century who studied ancient Greek inscriptions in Athens during the last years before the Turkish conquest of Constantinople.  That work filled a rich lifetime of scholarship and it was a particular privilege for some of us to attend the “book launch” in 2004 of his edition and translation of Cyriac’s later writings.  Fr. Bodnar came to Georgetown in 1967 and remained as professor of classics until his retirement in 1991.  In his honor, the department hosts an eminent scholar each year to deliver the “Bodnar Lecture,” and it is sad to think we will not see again the twinkle in his eye when he regularly remarked on that occasion that he was surprised that it was not yet a posthumous honor.  We will refresh that celebration in a few months.

Priest, scholar, and Hoya, his gentle way, his keen intellect, and that distinctive twinkle will be remembered by many, including a Provost for whom he has been his “oldest” Georgetown friend, dating from our meeting in Woodrow Wilson’s living room 35 years ago.  A friend and admirer of his of very long standing remarked this morning, “Well, he’s one that went straight up,” and many of us know exactly what she meant.  Requiescat in pace.

With best wishes,
Jim O’Donnell

4 Comments on “Fr. Edward Bodnar, S.J., passes away at 91

  1. Without doubt, he’s one that went straight up. Words fail me.

  2. I learned just today that Fr. Bodnar died late last year. I had the great privilege to be his directee for several years and for the full spiritual exercises in daily life, an incomparable nine month journey. Today I am without words, but I know that I will hold all that he taught me dear for the rest of my life.

  3. So sad to hear Father Ed is gone! His father and mother were my Godparents, and he said mass for them in Dahlgren chapel on their 60th anniversary. I was there with my dear parents – my father took over as first chair violinist in the White House chamber orchestra from Father Ed’s father when he retired.
    Father Ed had a “sweetness” about him that was hard to define. And he loved a nice glass of “B and B” after dinner.

    Flight of angels, Father Ed, and blessings.

  4. I remember him as the gentle, soft-spoken and interested man I met first as an undergraduate. He was a gift to the Georgetown community.

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