Jesuit Father Charles L. Currie, who was dedicated to Jesuit higher education and social justice causes, died on Jan. 4, 2019, after a recent illness. He was 88 years old.
Fr. Currie served as president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) from 1997 to 2011. A revered leader in Jesuit higher education, he previously served as president of both Wheeling Jesuit University (1972-1982) and Xavier University (1982-1985); director of Georgetown University’s Bicentennial celebration (1989); rector of the Jesuit community at Saint Joseph’s University (1991-1997); and as a faculty member at Georgetown and Saint Joseph’s.
A champion for social justice, Fr. Currie played an integral role in coordinating Georgetown’s response to the 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador. His trips to the University of Central America (where the eight individuals were killed) helped to inform the U.S. Congress on developments in the investigation of the murders and brought greater awareness to the then-oppressive military regime in El Salvador.
Fr. Currie’s work with El Salvador led him to co-found the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, which brought student protesters to the School of the Americas (SOA) in Ft. Benning, Georgia, where several of the murderers had received military training. The Teach-In has grown in size and scope from its first gathering in 1996, and it now draws nearly 2,000 students, faculty and staff from Jesuit colleges, high schools and parishes to Washington, D.C., every fall for advocacy training that honors the legacy of the martyrs in El Salvador.
During his time at AJCU, Fr. Currie oversaw the development of JesuitNET, the nation’s first Jesuit distance education network; strengthened the association’s relationships with members of the U.S. Congress; created the Jesuit Leadership Seminar; and coordinated a joint response to Hurricane Katrina, which allowed students from Loyola University New Orleans to spend their fall 2005 semester at sister Jesuit institutions across the country.
After retiring from AJCU in 2011, Fr. Currie became executive director of Jesuit Commons, an initiative that grew from JesuitNET to provide online education to students in refugee camps. The program is now known as Jesuit Worldwide Learning, and grants diplomas and certificates accredited by two U.S. Jesuit institutions: Regis University and Creighton University.
AJCU’s current president, Fr. Michael J. Sheeran, SJ, remarked on Fr. Currie’s legacy. He said, “Charlie spotted the potential in people. He saw the good that you longed to do, but feared you couldn’t achieve. Then, he let you know he believed in you and was counting on you. Whether you were a politician, an office staff member, or a fellow Jesuit, Charlie’s confidence in you made all the difference.”
Fr. Currie was a beloved figure both within and outside of the Jesuit network. He remained proud of his roots in Philadelphia, but thrived on the energy of Capitol Hill during his years in Washington, D.C. His tireless energy, keen sense of humor, legendary story-telling skills and enormous heart will all be greatly missed. [Source: AJCU]