Rev. James Walsh, S.J., Father of Speech Policy, Dies

Georgetown University

GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY

“A university is many things but central to its being is discourse, discussion, debate: the untrammeled expression of ideas and information.”

With those words, Rev. James Walsh, S.J., opened his preamble to the 1989 speech and expression policy, the first of its kind at Georgetown. The associate professor of theology died Tuesday night, leaving a rich legacy of expression— through music and The Georgetown Chimes, as well as free speech advocacy.

Walsh, who hailed from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., took his final vows as a Jesuit in 1982, according to his biography on the Chimes’ website. His theology courses focused on biblical texts, and he listed “exploring the connections between The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and teaching” as his apostolic pursuit.

Walsh’s work on the speech and expression policy stemmed from the Metropolitan Police Department’s arrests of students protesting for divestment from South Africa’s apartheid regime. Walsh continued to offer support for advocacy, labelling a 1999 sit-in at the office of University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., “refreshing,” calling upon the Jesuit community to speak against the infringement of immigrants’ rights and offering remarks at a March forum on free speech.

As a Jesuit member, he served as the “Celestial Chime” for over 30 years. The university has yet to make a public announcement, but the a cappella group and Georgetown Alumni each posted an announcement.

A full obituary will appear in the coming days. Learn more about Walsh through his own words, below.

GU Education Needs Imagination (Sept. 12, 2008) 

The Science of Maturing (May 15, 2009)

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5 Comments

  1. Heath Dickey says:

    He was an incredible man.
    Led me to the Church and always made class engaging.
    Loved this guy, tough loss for the Theo department, the university, and the world.

  2. Jim was my mentor and an inspiration when I was a theology undergrad in the 1970s. He opened my eyes to Hebrew scripture, and tried (in vain, as it turned out) to tutor me in Hebrew and Greek. Not many teachers influenced me as Jim did. I always looked forward to the opportunity to visit him at the Jesuit Residence when my travels took me back to D.C. The last time was about three years ago. I treasured his friendship and his advice: for me, he was Georgetown at its best. As coincidence had it, I was re-reading his landmark book on justice and community in Hebrew scripture, “The Mighty From Their Thrones,” when I learned of his death. It’s well worth the read, and 28 years after its publication it still speaks to the situation we are in–as a country and as the human family. I highlighted this passage when I first read the book: “And Yahweh’s [judgment]? It is not ‘controlling.’ It is the constant, self-emptying, gracious, efficacious working of the passionate God, seen in the unconditional fidelity the prophets proclaimed, and in the cross: that compassionate, free choice of powerlessness that broke the stranglehold of the Principalities and Powers and empowered us to love and to bear one another’s burdens.”

  3. Jimmy Walsh—so known before he entered the Jesuits, our teachers then—was a great pal of mine in high school (Scranton Prep). We shared various enlightenments as we grew, and, so important, we made each other laugh, both then and on many occasions afterwards. He was a delight to listen to around a table. For me and his classmates who enjoyed his visits the news of his death is a darkening of our day. Thanks, Jim. for your gifts, for the bestowal of your light and your humor on us during your time.

  4. John Clark says:

    I, like John Reddington, was a classmate of Jim at Scranton Prep. I was also his classmate for two years at the Novitiate of St. Isaac Jogues at Wernersville, PA. I was just now trying to find out his email address to let him know that my daughter, Margaret Morrissey, will be visiting Georgetown University in September on business and was planning to look him up. That is how I discovered the sad news of his death. I always enjoyed refreshing my friendship with Jim during our infrequent high school reunions. He was a unique individual who will be missed by me and countless others. Rest in peace, James Patrick Michael Walsh, SJ.

  5. Brian Hickey says:

    The man who directed me into my choice of career, music. A mentor for me from a young age. Walked together in South Boston with Catholic Interratial Council in 1964. Tremendous humor.
    I will miss him dearly

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