Fr. Edward Bodnar, S.J., a retired classics professor, died Tuesday morning at the age of 91.
A graduate of Gonzaga and Princeton Universities, Bodnar was ordained in 1952. He taught in the classics department at Georgetown from 1967 until his retirement in 1991.
Bodnar served as a mentor for many students and faculty members and kept in touch with students, some who graduated more than 30 years ago, according to Catherine Keesling, an associate professor of classics.
“The thing that students took away from learning with Ed … was a long-term friend,” she said.
Bodnar officiated at the marriages of several former students and baptized the children of members of the university community, including Keesling’s.
According to Fr. Charles Gonzalez, S.J.,(CAS ’56), a lecturer in the theology department and the rector of the university from 1988 to 1994, Bodnar was a fixture in the Jesuit community. “As a spiritual guide, he was direct and compassionate, speaking with a conviction learned over years of deep companionship with the Lord,” he said.
Bodnar remained a presence within the classics department and the Catholic community after his retirement and could be seen frequently strolling through campus with his signature Walkman.
“I remember seeing him at Mass and being very impressed that he was still actively saying Mass and participating in the community. You could tell he still really cared about students and the community,” Adrienne Lane (SFS ’14) said.
Bodnar played an integral role in the development of the classics program at Georgetown, according to Keesling.
“For years, he was the classics department,” she said.
Bodnar’s work focused on the writings of Cyriac of Ancona, a 15th-century Italian merchant, and the study of Renaissance travel in Greece, a subject that has become increasingly popular among classics scholars in recent years, according to Keesling.
“It was nice that he lived to see lots of people get suddenly interested in this subject that was his life’s work,” Keesling said.
According to Provost James O’Donnell, Bodnar also impacted members of the university outside of the classics department and Catholic chaplaincy.
“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,” O’Donnell wrote in an email announcing Bodnar’s death to the university community Tuesday evening.
Each year, the classics department holds the Bodnar Lecture featuring a renowned classics scholar. The annual event will be continued posthumously in Bodnar’s honor and is scheduled for March 26, 2012.
A wake will be held for Bodnar today from 3 to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m in Wolfington Hall, and his funeral will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. in Dahlgren Chapel. Bodnar will be buried in the Jesuit cemetery on campus.