May 31, 2016 — Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has awarded Jesuit Father John O’Malley its Centennial Medal, which recognizes alumni who have made extraordinary contributions. The medal is the school’s highest honor and was first awarded in 1989 on the 100th anniversary of the school’s founding.
“John O’Malley, for your revolutionary scholarship on the humanism of religious thought and early modern church history, and for opening our eyes to the ways in which this history unites us rather than divides us, we are proud to award you the 2016 Centennial Medal,” the citation for the award said.
“Usually, you’re one of two things,” said Jesuit Father Mark Massa, professor of church history and dean of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, who studied history under Fr. O’Malley both as an undergraduate and as a graduate student. “You’re either a leader in the Jesuit community, or you’re a great scholar. John has managed to be both of those things. People who count him as mentor and friend are lucky, and they know they’re lucky.”
Fr. O’Malley earned his Ph.D. in history from Harvard in 1965 and taught for several years at the University of Detroit before returning to Cambridge to serve for nearly three decades as a distinguished professor of church history at the former Weston Jesuit School of Theology (now the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry). He is currently a University Professor in the Department of Theology at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
He began his career as a scholar of Italian Renaissance intellectual history and went on to become a leading authority on early modern Catholicism, bringing a more nuanced perspective to the study of church history during the Renaissance and Reformation. His contributions have been recognized with lifetime achievement awards from the Society for Italian Historical Studies, the Renaissance Society of America and the American Catholic Historical Association.
“John is one of those revisionists whose work changes everything. Besides the Constitutions of St. Ignatius, which is our founding document, I would say John’s book “The First Jesuits” is the book,” said Fr. Massa of Fr. O’Malley’s book published in 1993. “Every Jesuit in the United States has read that book. John put the history of the Society of Jesus on a new footing.”
“John integrates intellectual and professional excellence with the sincerity and simplicity of a priestly vocation lived out in 70 years of religious life,” said Jesuit Father Francis Clooney, Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology at Harvard Divinity School. “His impeccable scholarship has always been for the sake of helping others, not for his own reputation or advancement.” [Source: Harvard University]