Fairfield’s favorite racquetball-playing, cigar-smoking, gourmet-cooking and philosophy-teaching priest is leaving the University for a six year term as Provincial Superior for the New England Province of the Jesuit order.
Rev. Thomas J. Regan, S.J., who has been involved with the Fairfield community in various ways for the past two decades, was appointed to the post by Very Reverend Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus.
Regan will be reporting directly to Kolvenbach when he begins his new role in the order.
“It’s like a spiritual father slash CEO,” said Regan of his new position.
Regan will be supervising more than 400 Jesuit priests, brothers and seminarians in New England with the intent of fostering Jesuit and Catholic identity in the institutions that the Jesuits sponsor.
On leaving Fairfield, Regan said, “It’s a mixed blessing, I’ve been here on and off since 1980. My entire professional life has been spent here. I’m integrated into pretty much every facet of the university.”
Students are saddened by Regan’s departure from Fairfield University.
“It sucks that he’s leaving, because I heard he was going to replace APK and bring back football. Father Regan cares about the students and interacts with them, and he was genuinely upset at the cutting of football and hockey,” said Liz Collins, ’05.
Besides interacting with the students, Regan has had the chance to play a number of different roles at Fairfield. He first came to Fairfield as an adjunct in 1980 and returned in 1993 when he was promoted to associate professor and the head of the Department of Philosophy.
From 2000-2002 he was the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and this year was one of the co-directors of the University’s new Ignatian Residential College.
“I’m pleased that the last year I could be here was the beginning of the Ignatian Residential College,” Regan said, “If I could choose a program to remember leaving with that was it.”
Joe Defeo, co-director of the Ignatian Residential College, said “It’s been a joy to work with Fr. Regan. He can set things up and let people do what they do. He’s really easygoing that way.”
Emily McAdam, ’05, a member of the Ignatian College said, “It’s a compliment that he wanted to live with us and work with us and be with us.”
Administrators will miss Regan for both his work in classes and his connection to the students.
When Regan worked in the dean’s office, Jean Daniele, his former assistant, said, “He had such a rapport with everyone here in the office and with the students. He was always willing to take time with them.”
Benedetta Maguire also an assistant in the dean’s office said, “He had an open door policy with the students.”
She also mentioned Regan’s wonderful singing voice. “He always carried on the Happy Birthday tune when someone in the office had a birthday.”
Another little known piece of trivia about Regan will be remembered is his cooking skills.
“He’s an incredible cook,” said Rev. Jim Mayzik, S.J., who lived with Regan for a time.
When Regan served as National President of Alpha Sigma Nu, the National Jesuit Honor Society he would hold gatherings at his house where he would do all the cooking.
In addition to the cooking and the administrative skills, Fairfield will miss Regan as a professor.
McAdam, ’05, said, “He’s not just a good teacher, there are a lot of them at Fairfield. He makes us want to do better because he’s so amazing himself.”
Regan said that not teaching “will probably be the hardest part. I have such a passion for teaching.”
Courtney Darts, ’01, a graduate now working in the visual and performing arts department took two classes with Regan.
“He made each lesson seem genuinely fresh and original, even though he must have taught the material many times in the past. This enthusiasm, plus his ability to relate complicated philosophical concepts to students’ everyday lives, consistently made him one of the most popular professors at Fairfield,” Darts said.
“He taught us how to live our lives as an educated person,” said Kristina Riordan, ’05. “He taught us all what we’re capable of becoming as individuals.”
Another characteristic that is recognized with Regan is his memory for details. Fr. Mayzik said, “he remembers names and is always asked to do weddings and baptisms for Fairfield alumni.”
Even though Regan will be based in Boston next year, Fairfield will be one of the schools associated with his region.
“I come back to Fairfield at least officially once a year to visit the community. I don’t anticipate losing touch with people,” Regan said.