Father Francis (Fran) R. Smith, SJ, retired professor of theology and religious studies at Santa Clara University, died March 25, 2021, at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California. He was 86 years old. He had taught at Santa Clara for 44 years and had recently celebrated his 60th anniversary as a Jesuit.
Fr. Smith was born in San Francisco July 14, 1934, the son of Francis Smith and Mary Graham Smith. A graduate of St. Ignatius College Preparatory (1952) and Santa Clara University (1956), Fr. Smith joined the Army for a two-year period (1956-58), which included training in the Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia. After his time in the Army, he attended the University of San Francisco Law School for a year before entering the Jesuit novitiate at Los Gatos, California, on September 7, 1960, to begin studies for the priesthood.
His Jesuit studies took him from Los Gatos to Gonzaga University in Spokane for philosophy studies (M.A.), back to St. Ignatius Prep for two years of teaching freshman Latin and coaching football (1965-67) and next to theology studies, first at Alma College in Los Gatos (1967-69) and then at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley (1969-70). He was ordained a priest June 20, 1970, at St. Ignatius Church in San Francisco. He spent the next year as an assistant pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Santa Barbara while finishing up his coursework at Berkeley. He then pursued graduate studies in dogmatic theology at the Gregorian University in Rome (1971-74), earning a doctorate.
Fr. Smith began his long teaching tenure at Santa Clara University in 1974. The university would be his home for the next 44 years. He was an influential teacher, who taught a variety of theology and religious studies courses, which he continued after his retirement to Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in 2018. He established the Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministries, which has trained lay church personnel for almost 40 years. He served a term as rector of the Santa Clara Jesuit Community (1977-82). His published books include The God Question, a Catholic Approach and The World is Charged: The Transcendent With Us.
Fr. Smith is survived by his brother, Michael Smith (Adrienne); nieces Monica Wahler, Michelle Carroll, Maria Smith and Therese Courtermarsh; nephew, Patrick Smith of San Jose; and nine grand-nieces and grand-nephews. A private funeral will be held at Santa Clara University in the near future.
Mission Santa Clara
Monday, April 12, 2021
*Due to COVID restrictions, in-person attendance is open to family only.