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University Mourns Charles Whelan, S.J.


Fordham University mourns the passing of Charles Whelan, S.J., a long-time Fordham School of Law professor who died on Feb. 2.

Father Whelan came to Fordham in 1962 after briefly teaching at Georgetown University, where he graduated at the top of his class. He had devoted more than half of his life to teaching at Fordham when he retired in 2006.

“All of us who have had the pleasure to work with Father Whelan will treasure his kindness and dedication to others that have enriched our lives and inspired us,” said Dean William Michael Treanor of Fordham Law. “Modest and concerned only with others, he is truly a giant in the history of the law school.”

On the occasion of his retirement, John D. Feerick, the Norris Chair of Law in Public Service and former dean of Fordham Law, called Father Whelan’s range of services both in and out of Fordham “Olympian” in scope.

In addition to writing four books on church-state relations and civil procedure, Father Whelan wrote numerous articles, essays and book chapters on topics including the First Amendment, tax law, the Equal Rights Amendment, race and religion, evolution and the law, and issues of censorship and the constitutional concept of morality.

He was also the associate editor for America magazine, for which he first wrote  in 1961, and where he covered subjects such as religious belief and morality, race, education and tax exemptions, equal protection and divorce for Catholics.

None of this, Feerick noted, detracted from his teaching duties, which included constitutional law, jurisprudence, creditors’ rights, seminars on the First Amendment, church-state relations and the Supreme Court, civil rights, tax-exempt organizations, legal writing and research as well as legal writing and plain English.

“His courses were always oversubscribed because of his enormous reputation in the subjects he taught. His teaching of legal writing was done at great personal sacrifice because it took so much time, and he had a great many other responsibilities,” Feerick said.

“Yet, as other full time faculty transitioned from teaching legal writing, Father Whelan declined to do so, believing it was important for students to have the experience of a full-time faculty member in that area of the curriculum. His willingness to do this has earned him, if nothing else, a nomination for sainthood.”

A wake will be held Thursday, Feb. 4, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. in the McNally Amphitheatre at the Lincoln Center campus.

A funeral mass will be held Friday, Feb. 5, at 10 a.m. at St. Paul’s Church, 59th Street and Columbus Avenue.


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