Born in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1943, John Schlegel entered the Jesuits in 1963, studied at Heythrop College in London and Melbourne, Australia, taught political science at Creighton University and returned to Oxford to work on his Ph.D. His leadership talents were sharpened as dean of Rockhurst College in Kansas City and Marquette University, vice president of John Carroll University and president of the University of San Francisco, followed by a return to Creighton as president from 2000 to 2011.
A gentleman, he never dominated a conversation and listened respectfully when he did not agree. After his time at Creighton he served as America’s publisher and president and celebrated Mass in New York parishes. In 2013 he returned to Marquette to do pastoral work at the university, a long-held dream of his.
Not long after that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A panel of experts told him that medical treatment could not guarantee a significantly longer life, so he embraced the role God had given him, bidding farewell to friends in London and then in Rome, where he participated in an audience with Pope Francis. He died on Nov. 15.
Father Schlegel was teaching his public how to die well, as he embraced good friends with a final hug and wrote them letters like his February 2015 epistle: “I have taught you (and you me), married you, baptized your children, buried your loved ones, and picked your pockets; at the same time we skied, hiked, golfed, played racquetball, cooked, listened to opera and drank wine. God is indeed a gracious and generous God. Because of you I do not fear death.”