Remembering Bill Geoghegan (1922-2015)

In a message Monday morning to the Bowdoin community, President Mills remembered the life of Professor of Religion Emeritus William D. Geoghegan, who passed away Saturday at the age of 92.

To members of the Bowdoin community,

I am saddened to report the death of William D. Geoghegan, professor of religion emeritus, who was instrumental in establishing religion as a major course of study at Bowdoin. Bill died Saturday afternoon at the age of 92.

Bill Geoghegan

Bill Geoghegan at the door to his Massachusetts Hall office in the late 1970s

Bill joined the Bowdoin faculty in 1954 as assistant professor of religion, was promoted to associate professor in 1962, and full professor in 1966.

An ardent follower of Carl Jung, he co-founded and convened the first meeting of an experimental study group that grew into the popular Bowdoin Jung Seminar, which met weekly for 25 years. In 1990 Bill collaborated with Kevin L. Stoehr ’90 on the book Jung’s Psychology as a Spiritual Practice and Way of Life: A Dialogue, in which he argues in the form of a Socratic dialogue, that Jung’s teachings are not just a mode of psychotherapy but a dynamic religious philosophical system.

He also was the author of Platonism in Recent Religious Thought, published in 1958 by Columbia University Press, as well as numerous articles on Christian theology.

Bill served one year as vice president of the Bowdoin chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa society and as secretary of the Governing Boards committee on physical education, and was a faculty representative to the College’s Board of Overseers. He was also active in Bowdoin’s senior center program in the late 1960s. A popular speaker before church groups and other audiences, he was for many years the Bowdoin liaison officer for the Danforth Foundation, which sponsors various programs designed to encourage careers in college teaching.

He was honored by Bowdoin’s Alumni Council in 1981 with the award for faculty and staff in appreciation of his outstanding “service and devotion to Bowdoin.”

Bill was born on July 16, 1922, in Wilmington, Delaware. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Yale University in 1943, graduating magna cum laude with high honors in philosophy, a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He studied for a year at Harvard Divinity School, and earned a bachelor of divinity degree magna cum laude from Drew Theological Seminary in 1945. He was awarded his doctorate at Columbia University’s Union Theological Seminary in 1950. An ordained Methodist minister, he served as pastor of rural parishes in Delaware and as chaplain and assistant professor of religion at the University of Rochester before coming to Bowdoin in 1954. He retired from the Bowdoin faculty in 1990, but stayed on as a research professor for three more years. In 1994 the Trustees named him Professor of Religion Emeritus.

Bill was an active member of the Brunswick community, especially at First Parish Church where he taught a number of adult religion classes over the years. He was also instrumental in the 1988 founding of the Brunswick Jung Center, a psychologically and spiritually oriented educational and cultural facility.

Bill was predeceased in 2013 by his wife of 67 years, the former Sarah Elizabeth Phelps, and by his son William Davidson Geoghegan II ’78 who died in 2002. He is survived by daughters Grace and Emily; son Andrew; and nine grandchildren, including Caroline Dunn Geoghegan of the Class of 2012. Bill’s great-nephew, Thomas Henshall, is a member of the Bowdoin Class of 2015. Bill’s daughter-in-law Abbie Brown is a director in Bowdoin’s Information Technology department.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, May 9, at 11:00 a.m. at First Parish Church, Brunswick. Visiting hours will be on Friday, May 8, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Brackett Funeral Home, 29 Federal Street, Brunswick. Memorial contributions may be directed to either the William D. Geoghegan Scholarship Fund at Bowdoin College or to First Parish Church in Brunswick.

Bill Geoghegan was an esteemed member of the Bowdoin faculty for nearly four decades and important leader in the Bowdoin-Brunswick intellectual and spiritual community. I know each of you joins me in extending heartfelt condolences to the entire Geoghegan family.

Sincerely,

Barry Mills

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