Dec. 1, 2021 – Fr. John W. Elder, SJ, was born in Ann Arbor, Mich., on June 27, 1933. He grew up in St. Louis, Miss., attended the Jesuit high school there, and entered the novitiate of the Missouri Province at Florissant in 1951. The U.S. provinces had agreed that scholastics with an aptitude for further studies in the sciences and math would do philosophy studies at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala. He spent three years there (1955-1958), during which he also completed a B.S. in chemistry.
Instead of teaching during regency, he spent four years at Loyola University Chicago doing graduate work in chemistry, receiving a doctoral degree in 1962. He did theology studies at Regis College in Toronto and was ordained at the theologate of the Missouri Province, at St. Mary’s, Kansas, in June of 1965. He returned to Toronto for a fourth year of theology and then tertianship at Drongen in Flemish Belgium.
The rest of his working life as a Jesuit was devoted to teaching chemistry, first at Regis College, in Denver (1967-1969), and then at the institution where he would work for 36 years, Fairfield University, in Connecticut (1969-2005). He was a successful teacher, known for the care and attention he gave his students. One of his courses attracted a considerable following, “Chemistry and Art,” in which he would discuss the pigments, canvasses, and varnishes used at different times and places in the past, modern restoration techniques, and the forensic aspects of detecting forgeries. Summers and sabbaticals his research interests took him regularly to Strasbourg, France, a European center of scientific research.
He was a quiet person, content to let others talk. His choice of recreations mirrored his personality, long-distance bicycling in all seasons, cross-country skiing when there was snow on the ground.
In 2011, he moved to Campion Health Center, in Weston, Mass. There he was the same reserved, taciturn person his Fairfield colleagues had known for years. He died peacefully in the early evening of November 21, 2021.