Fordham University mourns the death on Nov. 8 of Dominic Balestra, Ph.D., professor of philosophy, former chair of the department, and former dean of the faculty of arts and sciences.
“Today Fordham mourns one of its leading lights,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham. “Dominic Balestra has been a presence at the University for more than 40 years. In that time he has been a wise and kindly mentor to generations of philosophy students, a much beloved colleague, and a true friend. Our hearts go out to his loved ones, who we keep in our thoughts and prayers.”
A viewing will be held on Friday, Nov. 11, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Pelham Funeral Home, 64 Lincoln Ave, Pelham, New York. A funeral Mass will be held on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 10 a.m. St. Catherine’s Church, 25 Second Avenue, Pelham, New York.
Balestra joined the philosophy department in 1975. As a tenured professor, in addition to teaching he dedicated his time to supporting the faculty, serving on the Faculty Senate, overseeing the Department of Philosophy, and to countless other administrative boards.
He served as the dean of the arts and sciences faculty from 2004 to 2006.
“Dom’s contributions extended far beyond his positions and titles,” said John Drummond, Ph.D., chair of the philosophy department. “He was always available for advice, whether you were a student, faculty member, or administrator.”
Prior to his time at Fordham, Balestra was a lecturer and assistant director of the honors program at St. Louis University. He received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from St. Francis College in Loretto, Pennsylvania, and his doctorate in philosophy from St. Louis University.
But it is his contributions to the Fordham community that will immortalize him in the University’s history, said Drummond.
“He was the repository of an enormous institutional memory, but he was not hide-bound to the past and was innovative in his thinking about how best to educate our students,” he said. “Dom was influential in building the department, making many important hires, and identifying promising candidates for the faculty and our graduate programs.”
Curran Center for American Catholic Studies administrator Maria Terzulli, who was hired by Balestra in 1990, recalled a “unique kindness” in him. Just one week after starting her job, her son got pneumonia; she knew she’d have to take time from work and thought she would lose her job.
“I went and told Dom but he said, ‘Your family comes first. Go take care of your child,’” recalled Terzulli. “He was the embodiment of the Jesuit model of cura personalis.”
In addition to his service to Fordham, Balestra contributed greatly to the academic sphere; he was the author of over 35 philosophical articles and delivered more than 40 lectures at universities and professional conferences around the world.
“As a teacher, Dom — ‘Dr. B’ to many of the students — was beloved,” said Drummond. “His wisdom, his good humor, his concern for students all combined to make him one of the department’s best and most popular teachers.
“He will be very badly missed all across the University.”
Balestra is survived by his wife, Mary, daughters, Elisa and Ann, and son Mike.