Father David Smith

Father David Smith, Founder of the Department of Justice and Peace Studies, Dies at Age 85

Father David W. Smith, longtime faculty member and staff member in Campus Ministry at the University of St. Thomas, died suddenly Sept. 13. Archbishop Bernard Hebda will preside at the Mass of Christian Burial, which will be at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 16, at the Chapel of St Thomas Aquinas.

The Rev. David Smith
Father David Smith

Visitation and the vigil service will be held Thursday evening., Sept. 15, at the chapel. The visitation will begin at 5 p.m. and the vigil at 7 p.m. with a homily from Fr. Jan Michael Joncas.

Father Smith, who was ordained in 1964, joined the Theology Department faculty at St. Thomas in 1970. He was the founder of the Department of Justice and Peace Studies in 1985 and taught what eventually became Theology 421, Theologies of Justice and Peace, and JPST 250, Introduction to Justice and Peace Studies.

“He was a force – a modest, mellow, spirit-filled man with an unbending moral compass for social justice, who had an impact on our department and the university, but more importantly, on the lives of so many of our students," said St. Thomas Theology Professor Bernard Brady, who is director of the Murray Institute for Catholic Education and associate director of the Office of Mission.

"We all, especially me, owe David so much," JPST Professor Emeritus Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer said. "Teaching within the parameters of the liberating pedagogy he placed at the heart of Justice and Peace Studies was transformative for me and many others. David Smith: Presente!"

Memorial to Father David Smith

Smith graduated summa cum laude from the College of St. Thomas in 1958 as a mathematics major. He was named St. Thomas Professor of the Year in 1995 and was Teacher of the Year in 1994 for the Consortium on Peace Research, Education, and Development, a national organization. He served on faculty for 37 years before retiring in 2007.

"He was to so many of us a teacher, mentor, spiritual adviser, colleague and friend," Mike Klein, EdD, associate professor and program director, Justice and Peace Studies, said. "David was a man of integrity and lived the Gospel he preached in daily, tangible acts: in his own community, in Palestine, Iraq, and everywhere he traveled. We will carry on his work in Justice and Peace Studies where his example will inspire generations to come."