Jesuit Father Frank B. Costello, one of Gonzaga University’s most beloved Jesuits, passed away on May 23, 2016, at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California. He was 94.
Fr. Costello was a man of peace with a profound respect for the rule of law, deep belief in the importance of a faith that does justice, and tremendous concern for those in society who have been marginalized and forgotten, said Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh.
“Fr. Frank genuinely loved those with whom he was in relationship,” said President McCulloh. “He saw goodness in every person, and through his ministry encouraged others to do the same. He is, and will always be remembered by generations of Gonzaga alumni, faculty, staff and friends for his insight and intelligence, his wonderful sense of humor, his compassion — and above all, an unshakeable belief in the power of the Holy Spirit, active and at work in the world.”
A Spokane native, Fr. Costello entered the Society of Jesus in 1939 in Sheridan, Oregon, and was ordained in 1952, in Spokane. Fr. Costello earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Gonzaga, a second master’s degree from Fordham University and his doctorate from Georgetown University. He taught briefly at Bellarmine Preparatory School in Tacoma, Washington, and at Gonzaga before joining, in 1959, the faculty at Seattle University where he became head of the political science department, academic vice president and executive vice president.
Fr. Costello returned to Gonzaga University as a political science professor in 1970 and served as department chair and advisor for pre-law students for many years. At Gonzaga, he served as acting academic vice president and was rector of the Jesuit community both at Gonzaga and Gonzaga Preparatory School. When he retired from teaching in 1990, then-President Bernard J. Coughlin, SJ, bestowed upon him the title professor emeritus. That same year he was appointed vice president of the university with duties that included advising faculty and students in the Law School and helping to raise funds for the Law School building.
Blaine Garvin, professor of political science, and longtime colleague of Fr. Costello’s, noted his friend’s connections and influence.
“He knew all the politicians of significance in the state from Henry Jackson to Tom Foley, both Democrats, of course. But it says something important that one of Frank’s closest friends was John Spellman, the Republican governor of Washington,” said Garvin, whom Fr. Costello hired.
Garvin said Fr. Costello became a mentor to “legions of students,” many destined for law school, politics or both.
“I remember one day talking about a statewide election held the day before. ‘Well,’ Frank said, ‘I better call my former student and console him. He ran the losing campaign.’ He smiled. ‘Then I’ll call my other student who ran the winning campaign.’ I became convinced that he knew every judge and most of the lawyers in town,” Garvin said.
Fr. Costello was involved in several peace advocacy organizations, including the Catholic Association for International Peace and the World Without War Council. He remained active in the life of the university right up until his move to Los Gatos in April of 2015.
He is survived by 11 nieces and nephews, 24 great-nieces and nephews and 14 great-great-nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by six siblings, including his oldest brother Fr. William T. Costello, SJ, a professor of English and chair of Gonzaga’s English department who died in 1963 at age 49.
Fr. Costello often referenced Thomas Jefferson in his American political thought classes as an example of exemplary political leadership. Because he requested that no funds bearing his name be created at Gonzaga, Fr. Costello’s many friends and admirers established the Thomas Jefferson Endowed Scholarship in 2008.