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A True Chicagoan and Scholar: Tom Tobin, S.J. Is Remembered Fondly By Those He Impacted

Courtesy of Loyola University Jesuit Community“A true Chicagoan,” say former colleagues and students of recently retired Loyolan Theologian the Rev. Tom Tobin, S.J. who passed away Aug. 30.

The Rev. Tom Tobin, S.J., a well-respected, long-time Loyola faculty member died suddenly Aug. 30 at 74 years old, according to an email sent out by the university Sept. 2. He taught theology at Loyola for 40 years before retiring this past May to focus on his academic research.

Those who knew Tobin remember him for being a nationally-renowned scholar in the New Testament of the Bible with a deep love for his students and Chicago, according to former colleagues and students.

His dedication to the Loyola community set him apart from other professors and Jesuits because of how long he spent living and working at Loyola, the Rev. Thomas J. Regan, former dean of Loyola’s College of Arts and Science and Graduate School, who now works at Fordham University, said.

“He was totally loyal to Loyola over the years,” Regan said. “A scholar like him was getting offers to go everywhere and he always decided he wanted to stay in Chicago and Loyola.”

Tobin spoke nine languages, according to Regan. A renowned scholar, his books and articles were widely published within professional journals including SAGE Journals. He was the author of four books: “The Creation of Man: Philo and the History of Interpretation,” “On the Nature of the World and the Soul,” “The Spirituality of Paul” and “Paul’s Rhetoric in Its Contexts: The Argument of Romans,” according to Loyola’s website. 

Regan remembers Tobin as being a “role-model and historian” within the university’s theology department who helped guide his tenure as a dean at Loyola. He said for Tobin to build his credentials as a true scholar he spent a year studying at the third-best Israeli-university The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as ranked by a U.S. News & World report

Tobin’s academic experience and knowledge also greatly helped Loyola’s reputation as a theological institution, Regan said.

“Anybody who came to Chicago to do philosophy took theology courses with Tom Tobin,” Regan said. 

Those that came to study under Tobin saw him as a father-figure who would always be available for his students and colleagues when they were facing difficulties, according to Najeeb T. Haddad, Ph.D., department chair and assistant professor at Notre Dame University of Maryland. Haddad said he was taught and mentored by Tobin while obtaining a master’s and doctorate within Loyola’s theology department.

“I know I speak for many of his students and so many in the Society of Jesus when I say that today, we lost our father,” Haddad said.  “We have lost our close friend and confidant, never to hear his voice again.”

Current Loyola students, including senior Nick Boyle, also expressed how much they valued learning from Tobin. Boyle, a political science major, went to catholic school his entire life and said Tobin was able to recontextualize familiar texts — such as the Bible — while developing a positive relationship with students.

“You could tell that it was not about him, he knew there was a greater cause than just himself and he was really trying to strive towards that through his intellect and studies,” said Boyle, 21.

Tobin was born in Chicago on Nov. 6, 1945, and spent the majority of his life as a student and academic within the city. 

He entered the Society of Jesus in 1964, officially becoming a Jesuit. He then attended two now-closed Chicago seminaries — the Quigley South Seminary and the Niles College Seminary — before being ordained in 1973, according to Loyola’s online description of Tobin.

Tobin earned a bachelor’s degree in Classical Literature at Xavier University. In his post-graduate career, he went to Loyola for a master’s degree in theology after which he obtained a Ph.D. from Harvard University in New Testament and Christian Origins, according to the university’s website.   

Tobin professed his final vows — the last step in becoming a Jesuit —at Loyola’s Madonna Della Strada Chapel in 1992, 12 years after he started teaching at Loyola in 1980. 

While Tobin officially retired in May from his faculty position, he planned on staying involved with Loyola, Regan said. The university offered him a professor emeritus role, which means that he had a standing offer to teach a class at the university, Regan said. 

Tobin was focusing on his next academic project, a two-volume commentary on Philo of Alexandria’s treatises — a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher that lived in first-century Egypt.

He left behind a legacy of being a caring professor when he retired from teaching this past May, said Boyle.

“I think he’s going to be [remembered] as a wicked smart Jesuit,” Boyle said. “He also had a way to make space for students and make sure everybody felt included.”

Even though Tobin was known for being a top-quality international scholar, he’ll also be remembered as a true Southsider and a White Sox fan, according to Regan. 

Retired priest the Rev. John R. Seraphine — who studied under Tobin while pursuing his doctorate from Loyola in the late 1990s — echoed this same sentiment.

“I think about the only time Tom got slightly exasperated with me was when I wasn’t able to comprehend why the White Sox were so much superior to the Cubs,” said Seraphine.

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