Faculty Spotlight: Maureen A. Tilley
The faculty, students, and staff of the Theology Department and the Center for Medieval Studies mourn the passing of Professor Maureen A. Tilley, who died peacefully at home of pancreatic cancer April 3, 2016. She was 66. Most of us already know Maureen's extraordinary roster of professional accomplishments-she served as President of the North American Patristics Society, wrote over 70 academic articles and 50 book reviews, and was known as one of the world's most accomplished scholars of Christianity in North Africa. Others have experienced firsthand her inimitable presence in the classroom-challenging, witty, yet unfailingly dedicated to her students and their intellectual and personal well-being. At Fordham, her graduate seminars on hagiography, St. Augustine, and North African Christianity attracted many medievalists, and her 2007 presentation in the Center for Medieval Studies' ongoing lecture series, "Stitchery and Social Order in Caesarius of Arles' Rules for Nuns," served as the basis for her final article, one that she completed in the weeks leading up to her death. A full obituary and official university announcement of her passing is available online, at Fordham News.
At Maureen's wake, her daughters, Elena DeStefano and Christine Dyer, delivered a beautiful and at times humorous eulogy, which they began by saying that they wished "to share how she was as a mother. Staying out of the education field may be a little hard, however, because she was always teaching and enabling people around her to live up to their fullest potential." Elena added that Maureen was "so passionate about her work that I, like many of her other students, was also interested in what should have been a very dry subject." For those of us for whom late antique and medieval church history is anything but dry, Maureen was as much a generous colleague as she was a gifted teacher, volunteering references, helping with translations, exchanging ideas, chewing on intellectual possibilities-none too unusual to be considered. Her scholarship was rigorous, but her spirit was light-and, through the example of her scholarship and teaching, she proved that there is no contradiction between the two.
One of the times that my husband and I visited Maureen in the months leading up to her death, she reflected on how she understood her vocation now that she was no longer able to teach in the classroom. (She did insist, however, on referring to the semester of her illness as Death and Dying 301: The Lab Section.) She said that she believed that her role was now to teach others how to die well-something as characteristically medieval as it was characteristically generous. For me and for many others, Maureen's grace, her dignity, her willingness to face what was ahead with steadfast hope and unquenchable faith taught lessons that went beyond her academic field and touched on the great mysteries of life. Maureen Tilley: professor artis moriendi. Requiescat in pace.
-J. Patrick Hornbeck II
Chair, Department of Theology