The Fordham University community mourned the loss on Aug. 6 of Vincent M. Novak, S.J., the first dean of the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE), and a pioneer of post-Vatican II religious education.
Father Novak’s 40-year career cultivating Fordham’s first graduate program in religion stemmed from his early desire to rethink religious education.
In 1957, as a religion teacher at Fordham Prep, he voiced his concern with the curriculum to his Jesuit superiors. With their blessing, he journeyed to Paris, Holland, and Brussels to learn new ways to communicate Catholic teaching to young people.
He returned to Fordham in 1959 with his ideas to revolutionize religious education.
Along with his brother Joseph Novak, S.J., and John Nelson, Ph.D., Father Novak established the Graduate Institute of Religious Education in 1964, which offered a master’s degree in religious education.
The Institute eventually led to the creation of GRE in 1975.
Today, nearly 50 years after its founding, GRE features a comprehensive curriculum—with courses in education, sociology, psychology, and pastoral counseling. The school offers three master’s programs, two doctoral programs, two certificate programs, and two fully online master’s programs.
Father Novak retired as dean of GRE in 2004. He was a native of Jersey City, N.J.