Father Gerald L. McKevitt, SJ, professor emeritus of history at Santa Clara University, entered into God’s peace September 18 at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, Los Gatos. He was 76.
Fr. McKevitt was born in Longview, Wash., July 3, 1939. His family relocated to Quincy (Plumas County), Calif., and he later graduated from the University of San Francisco in 1961 with a history major and philosophy minor and began graduate studies in history at the University of Southern California, earning an MA. In 1963, he entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Los Gatos to begin training for the priesthood. His studies took him to Gonzaga University, and in 1967 he started doctoral studies in history at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he received his Ph.D. in 1972. Theological studies were taken in Rome, where he received his degree in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.
Fr. McKevitt was ordained a priest in San Francisco in June 1975 and began a lifetime association with Santa Clara University. As research professor and archivist, he was given the task of writing the history of the university. Based on his doctoral dissertation, his The University of Santa Clara, a History, 1851-1977, was published by Stanford University Press in 1979.
Through the years he rose to the rank of full professor, serving as department chair, university archivist, university historian, and rector of the Jesuit Community. In 2004, he was named the Ignacio Ellacuria University Professor for Jesuit Studies at Santa Clara. In addition to teaching a variety of courses, he continued his research in Jesuit history in the U.S. and published numerous articles and book reviews in scholarly journals. He also contributed to scholarly reference works. His award winning book, Brokers of Culture: Italian Jesuits in the American West, 1848-1919, was published by Stanford University Press in 2007.
His other academic experiences included visiting professorships at Fordham University and Seattle University, memberships on the editorial board of Studies in Jesuit Spirituality, and board membership on the National Seminar on Jesuit Higher Education. He also served on the Board of Trustees of Santa Clara and Gonzaga universities and was active in professional organizations. He curated an extensive collection of Jesuits in fiction, now part of Santa Clara University’s special collections, and cultivated his hobby of watercolor painting.
After his retirement from the classroom, he continued his research and gave a number of lectures to a wide variety of audiences. At the time of his death, he was working on a book length history of Jesuit higher education in the United States.
Fr. McKevitt is survived by his sisters, brothers-in-law, nephews, and nieces: Patricia and Tim Johnson and their sons Patrick and Nicholas; Janice McKevitt and her children Mark and Angela; Karen Dusa and her children Ryan and Erika; Michael and Barbara Price and their sons Christopher and Danny; and Carol McKevitt.
Friends and family are cordially invited to call on September 29 from 2-5 p.m. at Mission Santa Clara on the campus of Santa Clara University. There will be a vigil prayer service at 5 pm. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 7:30 p.m. in the Mission Church. Interment will take place on September 30 at 10 a.m. at Santa Clara Mission Cemetery, 490 Lincoln Street, Santa Clara.
Contributions in Fr. McKevitt’s memory may be made to the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053.