Gerry Hughes, SJ – R.I.P.

It is with great sadness that we write to let you know that Dr Gerard J Hughes SJ, former Vice Principal, died on 2 November 2021.  Many of you will have fond memories of being taught by Gerry during his 25 years as a much-loved lecturer in philosophy and moral theology.  He was on the staff since Heythrop’s early years in Cavendish Square and became Head of the Philosophy Department in 1973. He was without doubt one of the pillars of the College until he left in 1998 to become Master of Campion Hall, Oxford, where he continued to tutor in philosophy for another 20 years until his retirement in 2018.

Requiem Mass will be celebrated on Monday 22 November at 2.00pm at Farm Street Church, London (114 Mount Street, W1K 3AH), followed by a reception with an opportunity to share reminiscences.  The Mass will be livestreamed at

We could do no better than to recall the feature in the Association’s magazine celebrating the award of an Honorary Doctorate (D.Litt.) of the University of London to Gerry in 2009. Click this link to open an archive copy of the magazine.

For those who knew Gerry and wish to express their appreciation for him publicly, please use the “comments” field below and we will accumulate a set of remembrances accordingly.

Gerry Hughes on an HAAS visit to Heythrop Park in 2014 (see Archive – The Heythrop Association, 2014 edition of the Heythrop Alumni Magazine)

20 thoughts on “Gerry Hughes, SJ – R.I.P.”

  1. Rev. Daniel Pritchard

    Saddened to read of the passing of Dr. Gerry Hughes. He was unfailingly kind and a wonderful lecturer when I was at Heythrop College. Rest in peace.

  2. During all the events at which I encountered Dr Hughes – both at Heythrop College and in other settings – he never failed to bring warmth and wit to the occasion, combining his knowledge of philosophy of his Jesuit background into an encouragement for those around, and often with a little teasing along the way. His acceptance speech for his Heythrop Honorary Doctorate in 2009 captures his spirit entirely well: the Jesuit Province, and the Heythrop College family, are the poorer for his death. May he now rest in peace, and rise in glory.

  3. It was delightful to be taught by Gerry Hughes. I always remember his interjection “……..I hear you say” when he was pointing out something that might be relevant to an exposition and also his invitation to students to spit at him to illustrate the limits of free will. He was always cheerful but never with that false strained good humour that so often afflicts the religious. His intelligence and deep learning was also an inspiration to his students.

  4. Dear Gerry – Rest in peace, now, after your long and so fruitful life. I thank the Lord that our paths crossed, if ony briefly, through Living Theology and through my time at Heythrop, but whenever they did, I always came away the better for it. You were a great teacher, always challenging, always encouraging. ony the best!

  5. What a life so well lived and with such a generosity of spirit. So many academics have that necessary ‘selfish gene’ which ensures that they protect their time so that they can give it to their research. No such thing with Gerry. He was a dedicated scholar but this never took from his time with students and colleagues who he supported and encouraged tirelessly.
    I always referred to him as ‘darling’ which he loved and always took in the best of humour. With Gerry you met the man before the mind – a singular disposition in the elevated academic circles in which he was so rightly placed. May he rest in peace.

  6. The man who has been my inspiration as a teacher and developer of minds throughout every step of my career. He tutored me through the challenges of philosophical logic as a 1st year undergraduate, spoke at th first A level conference I organised and was unfailingly generous in his support, encouragement and teaching. He will forever remain that inspiration and the teacher I will always aspire to be. Much missed, may be rest in peace and rise in glory

  7. Menaha Ganesathasan

    Gerry was the best of teachers. He was the first to ask me, What are you? and then laughed when I couldn’t answer.

  8. Gerry taught me philosophy in my first and second year of BA Philosophy and Theology at Cavendish Square in a memorably lively, accessible way and was present throughout my degree in such a supportive, astute, generous and kindly manner. My words can only inadequately convey what Gerry has given me in myriad forms, – true inspiration and I am blessed with learning from him. May he rest in peace.

  9. Gerry was such an outstanding teacher. To have known him and to have been taught by him is an immense and life-long privilege. At Heythrop at Cavendish Square, Gerry was not only a brilliant teacher but a wonderful presence in the student common rooms, always engaging with us in the most supportive way, with a great sense of humour, but never afraid to challenge us on lazy thinking. A man of extraordinary modesty about his brilliant academic achievements. We will not see his like again.

  10. I remember Gerry as a brilliant lecturer for undergraduates. I attended two introductory lectures he gave at Heythrop to students starting on moral philosophy. In the first he set out a deliberately crude version of moral egotism, in order to stimulate student reaction. In the second he gave a more sophisticated version of the same ideas — again to get the students to think and speak for themselves, and how helpful and encouraging he was to students who weren’t used to expressing themselves! He was equally at this best at the mid-morning coffee breaks in the SCR — stimulating his colleagues to rise above trivia and moans and to engage in lively discussion. In any context he was a lively breath of fresh air.

  11. Irene and Paul Flaherty

    The obituaries of Gerry have inevitably tended to concentrate on his many achievements.  They could only hint at his sheer humanity and to describe the simple fun it was to be with him – which Michael Barnes’ sermon yesterday brought out.  

    It included the uproarious laughter when someone in the middle of an intense argument managed to upend it and move it in a completely different direction; the intense joy of puzzles and sharing clues (gegs?  (8,4); music:  singing, concerts, choral evensong and just sitting down at home listening to discs;  the intense inquisitiveness, looking right, left and backwards to ensure he missed nothing – a complete disaster in the Customs Sheds where the officers invariably thought he looked shifty.

    There is an immense hole in our lives, Gerry. Don’t bother to rest (it wouldn’t suit you). Just rise in glory.

    Irène and Paul Flaherty

    PS. scrambled eggs

  12. Joseph Henry Fitzpatrick

    We all enjoyed having a splendid lunch with you Father Gerry when you so kindly gave us a wonderful guided tour of old Heythrop in 2014. Thank you for telling us all the history and showing us the library and telling us about how everyone had to sit at lunch and dinner according to Philosophy and Theology and rank. It was so wonderful to learn about life in Old Heythrop and to visit the cemetery there and see the room where you studied and lived and the spot in the chapel now ballroom where you were ordained. Always thinking of you in the Hughes Room during lectures in Kensington Square and feeling very inspired. It is an honour to have been acquainted with you. Rest in Peace. We will not forget everything you did for us.

  13. Lovely to attend my wonderful teacher (at Heythrop 1986-89) Gerry’s requiem mass and hear Michael Barnes’ touching homily. All I’d add is recognition of how he changed our lives and decision making for the better with his Aristotelian ethics and his Thomist principles! RIP Gerry 🙏🏻🌹

  14. Conversing in the lobby with John Heffernan RIP when Gerry sailed through the door from the library end. “Ha! Clearly the two elders waiting for Susannah!” John understood the scriptural reference but I did not. As Gerry started to explain for my benefit Anne O’Rourke RIP shot through the door waving her hands & exclaiming “ HERE I AM!!!”
    For me he was a teacher not a lecturer in that he was like a player before you performing to make his point rather than just laying something before you to take up or pass by. “Give me an example of an action that would be morally indefensible under any circumstances! No? How about peeling the skin off a live baby on a wet Sunday afternoon??” I can’t confirm that he smoked during “lectures” but he certainly did during tutorials. Imagine that now!
    Of all the tutors/teachers/lecturers I encountered at Heythrop he was the brightest star. I mightn’t always have agreed with him but unkindness for anybody is something I could never ever have attributed to him. He was especially good to me when I hit a wobble during my finals & even after I left college when I sought his help. May he rest in peace – I’m sure he sees all things clearly now.

  15. Gerry was exceptionally brilliant in his thinking, as he was in his care & compassion. A brilliant singer, a lover of bird-watching & nature, an academic who enjoyed chatting with, rather than separation from, students, reflected the many facets of a fully human being. He enjoyed laughing with students in the JCR at Cavendish Square & brought philosophy & Aquinas alive. So gifted academically but his humanity was his greatest gift, also shared during ‘Living Theology’ & other occasions. I hope future Jesuits realise that higher education is so important & that there will be future ‘Gerry’s’ inspiring future generations of men & women, as well as those they serve.

  16. Gerry was one of the best teachers I have ever met, such a generous and genuinely humble person, with a sharp intellect as a razor and broad heart to come with it.

    May he rest in peace.

  17. Christopher Corbally, SJ

    I had Jack Mahoney for moral theology rather than Gerry, but I knew him well (as “the Talker”, along with the other Gerry Hughes SJ, “the Walker”) and respected his keen understanding of how Christianity has to interact with ethics in modern (Western) society…something I find expressed now in President Biden and recognized by Pope Francis. Along with that at times ferocious-for-the-truth exterior, I also knew Gerry’s fundamental friendliness and kindness.
    May he indeed rest in peace!

  18. Gerry was an outstanding lecturer & tutor, filled with a deep spirituality & humanity, sprinkled with a great sense of humour, plus a wonderful singer. We were so lucky to study Aquinas with him.

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