In Memoriam: Rev. Anthony J. Kuzniewski, S.J., 1945-2016
Rev. Anthony J. Kuzniewski, S.J., professor emeritus of history at the College of the Holy Cross, died on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016 at the Campion Health Center in Weston, Mass. at the age of 71 after a swift battle with cancer.
A beloved member of the Holy Cross community for 37 years, Fr. Kuzniewski was regarded for his distinguished scholarship and exceptional teaching, as well as his mentorship and ministry to Holy Cross student athletes.
Born in Carthage, Mo. on Jan. 28, 1945, to the late Anthony J. and Alice E. (Tomaszewski) Kuzniewski, Fr. Kuzniewski grew up surrounded by the strong Catholic Polish American community in Milwaukee, Wis., where he was instilled with both an enduring interest in the story of the Polish in America and also a lifelong devotion to the Green Bay Packers.
He studied history at Marquette University, graduating magna cum laude in 1966. He went on to earn a master’s in 1967 and doctorate in 1973, both from Harvard University, where he studied and taught as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and a Harvard Graduate Prize Fellow. Fr. Kuzniewski entered the Society of Jesus in the New England Province in 1972, and was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood on June 9, 1979, at St. Joseph Memorial Chapel at College of the Holy Cross by The Most Reverend Bernard J. Flanagan, D.D., J.C.D., Bishop of Worcester. Just prior to his ordination, he received a master’s of divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology in Chicago.
Fr. Kuzniewski was widely regarded for his scholarship in American urban 19th century social and political history, particularly for his work on the history of the Polish church in Wisconsin in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, for which he was honored with a lifetime achievement award by the Polish American Historical Association. The manuscript from his 1981 book, “Faith and Fatherland: The Polish Church War in Wisconsin, 1896 – 1918,” was named best manuscript in American Catholic Studies by Notre Dame’s Center for Studies in American Catholicism in 1978. He was also an expert in Jesuit history in the United States, and is best known within Jesuit higher education for his monograph “Thy Honored Name: A History of the College of the Holy Cross, 1843 – 1994.”
Known affectionately as “Father K” by the generations of students who were inspired by his notable teaching, mentorship and passion for history, Fr. Kuzniewski taught many sought-after courses, including “The Age of Jackson,” “Lincoln and his Legacy,” “From Kennedy to Watergate,” and particularly popular seminars on the Civil War and the history of Holy Cross. Fr. Kuzniewski encouraged Holy Cross students outside the classroom as well, particularly through his service as chaplain to numerous athletics teams each season for over 20 years. His guidance and support engendered such gratitude and respect among Holy Cross alumni and student athletes, that the crew team was moved to name a shell after him. Additionally, an anonymous donor family named the lacrosse field in his honor in April 2016. The field is now officially named “Kuzniewski Field.”
Fr. Kuzniewski’s service to the Jesuit community extended beyond the classrooms and athletics facilities at Holy Cross. He served as Rector of the Jesuit Community at Holy Cross from 1998-2004 and on the boards of Loyola University of Chicago, Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine, and The Nativity School in Worcester, Mass. He was also past president of the Polish American Historical Association and served as archivist for the New England Province of the Society of Jesus in the 11 years prior to his death.
While he formally retired from his tenured position in Holy Cross’ Department of History in May 2016, Fr. Kuzniewski continued to teach part time as well as to maintain his roles as athletics chaplain and College historian. He also served as an assistant director and alumni chaplain in the office of advancement. Fr. Kuzniewski embodied the Jesuit and Holy Cross ideal of educating the whole person — mind, body and spirit. He embraced Holy Cross, its mission and his role as educator.
In accepting the Distinguished Teaching Award at Holy Cross in 2002, he said: “It’s axiomatic to remark that we make better choices when we base them on an accurate and realistic sense of who we are and where we are coming from. Personal history teaches all of us that the significant people are those [who] have presented us with good choices by naming our gifts and challenging us to have the courage of our convictions. We are called to provide that service for our students — to model good habits of mind and heart for them, to take stands for their potential, to live up to the privilege of being engaged with young people who are still ‘impressionable like wax.’”
Fr. Kuzniewski is preceded in death by his sister Susan Kuzniewski Reifsnyder and survived by his devoted niece Anne Reifsnyder of Milwaukee and nephews, Michael Reifsnyder of Omaha, Neb. and Tom Reifsnyder of Osaka, Japan.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his memory to The Nativity School of Worcester, 67 Lincoln St., Worcester, Mass. 01650.
Both wake and funeral will be held in St. Joseph Memorial Chapel at the College of the Holy Cross on Monday, Dec. 26. The wake will begin at 1 p.m. with funeral mass immediately following at 2 p.m. A brief graveside service and burial will take place in the Jesuit cemetery on campus following the funeral mass. A celebration of Fr. Kuzniewski’s life is being planned for the spring semester when faculty and students return to campus.
Help us celebrate Fr. Kuzniewski’s life and honor his immeasurable contributions to Holy Cross by sharing your memories, tributes and photos. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or share them on the College of the Holy Cross Facebook page.