Jesuit Father Richard W. Rousseau died on Sept. 27, 2015, in Weston, Massachusetts. He was a theology professor at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania for 26 years and founder and director of the Ridge Row/University of Scranton Press.
He was born on Sept. 26, 1924, in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, the son of the late Wilfred and Margaret (Donaghy) Rousseau and brother of Paul R. Rousseau and Jeanne Mathieu. He attended St. Joseph’s Parish Grammar School and Assumption Prep before attending Holy Cross College in 1941. After completing his sophomore year he reported to St. Stanislaus Novitiate/Shadowbrook in Lenox, Massachusetts, to begin Jesuit training.
Fr. Rousseau entered the Jesuits on Feb. 1, 1943, and earned undergraduate, graduate, and licentiate degrees in philosophy from Weston College, a constituent school of Boston College. He was ordained Aug. 15, 1954, and continued his education at Boston College, earning a Master of Arts in English. He later earned a licentiate and a doctorate in sacred theology from St. Albert de Louvain in Belgium and St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada. He took his final vows on Oct. 19, 1979.
He taught history and French at Fairfield Prep in Connecticut in the beginning of his career and then theology at Boston College from 1956 to 1960, serving as department chairman. He also taught theology/religious studies at Fairfield University, Weston School of Theology and Spring Hill College.
In 1972, Fr. Rousseau accepted a five-year term as dean of Weston College, a Jesuit seminary in Cambridge, Massachusetts.He served as a dorm counselor at Boston College, Fairfield University and the University of Scranton. From 1963 to 1973 Fr. Rousseau was the co-editor of a Catholic theology book series, “Catholic Theology Today,” and he also published many articles on Catholic education in a variety of journals.
From 1979 to 2005, he taught at the University of Scranton and was elected chairman of the Theology/Religious Studies Department for 15 years. As founder and director of the Ridge Row/University of Scranton Press for more than 20 years, Fr. Rousseau published approximately 80 books on theology and Pennsylvania culture.
Fr. Rousseau pursued many professional achievements throughout his career. While teaching at Fairfield, he received a Fulbright grant to study in India and gain experience in world religion. Later, he started the “Workshop for Christian Unity,” which became the principal ecumenical meeting in the United States sponsored by Catholics, and he also became an associate director of the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches in New York City for three years.
Fr. Rousseau also had a strong interest in art, particularly acrylic painting and photography, which he began exploring as a child. He studied in the art department at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, in the Art Student League in New York City, and under Don Stone in Rockport, Massachusetts. He helped develop a stronger artistic atmosphere on the University of Scranton campus, establishing a Campus Art Committee that lead to a formal art department, which he chaired for its first years of development.
He served for six years as president of a local Scranton group, Artists for Art Association (AFA), successfully bringing the association back from near financial failure. He also enjoyed participating in art exhibits, defining his style as iconography of the twentieth century, and he was awarded recognition for his talent in religious art.
After retiring from his position as Director of the University of Scranton Press in 2005, Fr. Rousseau returned to the New England Province and began publishing recorded oral histories of New England Jesuit members. The website, www.jesuitoralhistory.org, features photographs, audios, and texts of over 100 completed interviews.
He is survived by nieces and nephews as well as his many Jesuit brothers.