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Oct. 8, 2020

Father Jake Foglio leaves lasting legacy for students

The Michigan State University community is mourning the loss of Father Jake Foglio, an alumnus, former faculty member, longtime priest and mentor to countless MSU student-athletes and coaches, who passed away on Oct. 5, 2020. He was 91 years old.  

For so many in the MSU family, Father Jake was a gentle but firm guide, an inspiration and a good friend. As a caring spiritual seeker and mentor, he embodied the wisdom that comes with his wide experience and deep love for humanity and the human quest for wholeness and healing.  

“My heart goes out to the Foglio family and the many Spartans for whom Father Jake Foglio had an impact on during his decades of service at Michigan State University. Father Jake embodied what it meant to live a meaningful life, which he so powerfully defined as being ‘able to be a transcendent human being who has the ability to transcend the beautiful passions and emotions we have for a greater purpose,’” said MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “Today, I am reminded by many in our Spartan Community — students, faculty, staff, alumni and so many others — of the lasting impact he had on them and our university; an impact shaped by inclusiveness and being good human beings to each other. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”

Foglio Chair in Spirituality  

To honor his commitment to others, to the academic study of the human spirit, and to the Spartan family, the first chair in spirituality at a public university in the United States was created by MSU’s College of Arts and Letters in Foglio’s name.  

“Father Jake sought to nurture the spiritual life of each person he encountered. He was a fierce advocate for a deep spirituality that challenged each of us to be our best selves,” said Christopher P. Long, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters. “He committed his life to the pursuit of what he always called ‘dual excellences,’ recognizing that one cannot be excellent in one’s chosen profession without being an excellent human being. The Foglio Chair of Spirituality in the College of Arts and Letters will ensure that Father Jake’s legacy lives on in the lives of future Spartans in perpetuity.”  
“The Foglio Chair of Spirituality in the College of Arts and Letters will ensure that Father Jake’s legacy lives on in the lives of future Spartans in perpetuity.” - Christopher P. Long, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters

The purpose of the Foglio Chair in Spirituality is to encourage students, faculty and community members to understand what it means to be human, how to become more fully human and to lead a meaningful and fulfilling life. It is designed to perpetuate the College of Arts and Letters’ core values of inclusiveness, connectivity and improving the human condition.  

Foglio’s vision of spirituality is not tied to any specific religion or religious tradition. The Foglio Chair is intended to support a faculty member who articulates and exemplifies how a values-based commitment to the flourishing and fulfillment of human potential illuminates and enriches all walks of life.  

“Father Foglio was so insightful that he knew this could make a tremendous impact on the lives of the students at Michigan State to teach them about the right things to do in life and how to take your spirituality to another level,” said Kellie Dean, president and CEO of Dean Transportation, who was instrumental in helping establish the Foglio Chair. “Truly, his vision was that so many students would be impacted that the world would be a better place from the development of this new curriculum. It really is the first in the nation, and it’s perfect for Michigan State.”  

Dean, who graduated from MSU with a B.S. from the College of Education and a master’s degree in special education administration, was Foglio’s friend for many years. He first met Father Foglio as a football player at MSU for which Foglio served as team chaplain and he was involved with St. John Student Parish where Foglio was the parish priest. Foglio approached him five years ago for his help in raising funds for the Foglio Chair in Spirituality.  

“Truly his vision was that so many students would be impacted that the world would be a better place from the development of this new curriculum. It really is the first in the nation, and it’s perfect for Michigan State.” - Kellie Dean, friend of Father Foglio who helped establish the Foglio Chair in Spirituality

“He did not want this named after him, but he was told that if we are going to do this that you are the visionary. You are the author. This must be in your name, so he said, ‘OK, if that’s going to help,’” Dean said. “We would meet and would strategize and he would say, ‘Kellie, you better hurry up and do this because I am not going to be around here forever.’ A lot of generous folks have helped to get the proposed endowed chair in the position it is right now with full trustee board approval.”  

The Sam and Judy Eyde family are one of the donors to the Foglio Chair in Spirituality endowment.  

“This spirituality at Michigan State program was really his life’s goal that students would get spirituality in all aspects of education. That was monumental to him, and we’re so glad we were able to be a part of that,” Sam Eyde said. “It was a natural thing for us to do because of the relationship we had with him. Ever since he came from New York in the 1940s, the Eydes have had a relationship with Jake. And, it was important to me that I helped a man whose life emulated spirituality and helping every individual that he ever met in his life that he could help. I am so glad we did what we did while he was still alive.”  

Dean said they are continuing to raise money for the Foglio Chair in Spirituality and still need some more funding, but have done really well so far.  

“This was his vision. This is what he set out to do and now it is getting prepared to touch the lives of our MSU students through the College of Arts and Letters,” Dean said. “This spirituality chair is truly the legacy that Father Jake would like to be remembered by. He made a difference in many people’s lives every single day that he was here on Earth and now this curriculum in his name will continue to flourish and change many lives after his passing.”  

The Foglio Spirituality and Medicine Lecture  

Foglio also leaves a profound legacy in the development of a culture of humanism in medical education within MSU’s College of Human Medicine. From 1986 until his retirement in 1997, he was an assistant professor in the College of Human Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine where he assisted with medical behavioral science teaching and counseling. He received the Lester J. Evans, M.D., College of Human Medicine Distinguished Service Award in 2015.  

“I’ve learned from Father Jake for more than 20 years,” said Aron Sousa, interim dean of the College of Human Medicine. “He helped lead our spirituality in medicine curriculum, our virtues model for professionalism and was a great supporter of our biopsychosocial model of health. And, Father Jake was, flat out, a mensch.”  

The annual Foglio Spirituality and Medicine Lecture was established in his honor by the College of Human Medicine. This lecture institutionalizes the educational initiatives begun by Foglio, who wove into his career a commitment to social justice, a compassionate and intense concern for the personal and spiritual well being of students and colleagues, and a scholarly background in both theology and communication sciences.  

“Father Jake’s words and lived values were an inspiration to a generation of care givers; a calling to be values-driven and to lead with compassion.” - Norman J. Beauchamp Jr., MSU Executive Vice President for Health Sciences
“I listened to Father Jake’s sermons as an undergraduate and subsequently had the chance to observe his actions when he was a teacher in our medical school,” said Norman J. Beauchamp Jr., MSU executive vice president for health sciences. “Father Jake truly epitomized 1 John 2:6 ‘the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.’ Father Jake’s words and lived values were an inspiration to a generation of care givers; a calling to be values-driven and to lead with compassion.” 
 

MSU Athletics spiritual adviser  

For more than 40 years, Foglio had been a fixture in the MSU athletics community, serving as team chaplain for the football team and spiritual adviser to many leaders within MSU Athletics.  

“Father Jake Foglio was an inspiration and guidepost to thousands of Spartans and many, many members of our community,” said Bill Beekman, MSU Athletics director. “His was a life of grace, compassion and selflessness. Whether he was teaching medical students, mentoring student-athletes or simply being a friend, the power of his commitment to others will live on in the thousands of lives he touched.”  

MSU men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo had known Foglio for many years and shared his condolences.  

“It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Father Jake Foglio, a man of great faith who cared so much not only for Michigan State University, but for our students and our student-athletes, especially our football team, during my years here,” Izzo said. “He was a person whom you could confide in, and who cared for you and your well being, regardless of who you were. He loved you before you even got a chance to know him. He was as real as they come. Although his stature was small, his impact was great and his support was unwavering.  

“Father Jake was just such a passionate, intriguing and caring person. He was a great friend to Lupe and me, and our entire family will miss him dearly. One thing is for certain, however, he’s now up in Heaven wearing his Green and White with a warm, endearing smile on his face.”  

Education and early career  

Born in 1929, Foglio grew up in New Rochelle, New York, where he played football and baseball as a kid. He first came to MSU as a student in 1948. At the time, his calling was a career in radio.  

“I didn’t want to be a priest. I always knew I had to be a Christopher to carry Christ, but I wanted to do it as a human being and have a family and stuff,” Foglio said during an interview in 2016. “My mother gave me a line that said, ‘Radio gives wings to words and music.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!’ So, I was going to do it through radio.” 

Foglio worked at the MSU radio station, WKAR, as a student and graduated from MSU with a bachelor’s degree in communication in 1951. His first job out of college was at WTVB in Coldwater, Michigan, but it didn’t last long. He was drafted into the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War and spent two years on active duty in the Atlantic Ocean. In 1957, he graduated from Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1961.  

In active ministry for more than 50 years, Foglio served St. John Student Parish near MSU’s campus since 1970. He obtained a master of divinity degree from St. John’s Provincial Seminary in 1981 and a doctor of ministry degree from St. Mary’s University in 1985.  

Condolences and service  

Family and friends are asked to share memories of Father Jake by submitting a form on the Foglio Chair of Spirituality website.

On Monday, Oct. 12, there will be a private Mass of Resurrection and Celebration of Christian Burial for immediate family and fellow priests only. The Mass will be recorded and available for viewing at 2 p.m. and onward, with a link provided at www.stjohnmsu.org.

There will be a public community event to honor the "Life, Legacy, Love and Laughter of Father Jake" to be announced at a later date. 

This piece was originally featured on the College of Arts and Letters website.


By: Kim Popiolek

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