Former St. Louis University High School President Fr. Tom Cummings, SJ ’56 died peacefully yesterday on August 9, 2020. Please join us in praying for the repose of his soul, as we celebrate the gift of his life and his many contributions to the SLUH community.
Fr. Cummings was fond of saying he did four “tours of duty” at SLUH. The first was as a student. He returned to school as a theology teacher for the 1968-69 school year. Then, in 1977 he was named president of SLUH. Not yet 40 years old at the time, Fr. Cummings was the youngest president in school history. He returned for his fourth “tour” in 2003, when he was named Superior of the SLUH Jesuit Community and joined the teaching staff.
Fr. Cummings' most visible role at SLUH was his tenure as President from 1977-85. He led the school through a time of tremendous change. During this period, the school experienced a sharp decline in available Jesuit manpower, which created a financial strain as more lay staff were hired. With inspired leadership and tremendous fundraising acumen, Fr. Cummings guided the school through those difficult years. In fact, his fundraising efforts were so successful that he transformed the SLUH campus. He built a new stadium, allowing SLUH to play home football and soccer games on our campus for the first time ever.
After leaving SLUH in 1985, Fr. Cummings became the president of Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, and led that school through a similar expansion. After a sabbatical to do theological studies at the University of California-Berkeley (including research of the Dead Sea Scrolls), he was assigned to the faculty of Regis University in Denver, where he taught theology and English literature while serving in Campus Ministry.
Upon his return to SLUH in 2003, Fr. Cummings served as Superior of the Jesuit Community and theology teacher. He worked extensively with the Campus Ministry staff leading retreats and liturgies. He also served as Alumni Chaplain and held monthly gatherings of Alumni Manresa groups in which he led discussions and prayer focused on the spirituality of St. Ignatius.
The most important contribution Fr. Cummings made to the SLUH family was his spiritual leadership. He was a gifted homilist. His love of Christ and devotion to the Catholic Church were deep and powerful. But his holiness was not expressed in formal piety, but rather with an exuberance for his faith that was infectious. He lived the Jesuit dictum of “finding God in all things.” He brought his faith into everyday life, and did so with humor and joy. He inspired students, parents, staff and alumni to a greater love of Christ and deeper devotion to our Catholic faith. This is his lasting legacy at SLUH.