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Gonzaga Mourns Passing of Beloved Jesuit Fr. Frank Costello

Father Frank B. Costello, S.J.

Father Frank B. Costello, S.J. (Gonzaga University photo)

SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga University is mourning the loss of Father Frank B. Costello, S.J., one of Gonzaga’s most beloved Jesuits, who passed away early Monday at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California. He was 94. The funeral Mass will be held at St. Aloysius Church at 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, June 1 with a reception to follow. A vigil will be held in Gonzaga’s Jesuit House Chapel on Tuesday, May 31 at 7 p.m.

Fr. Costello was a man of peace with a profound respect for the rule of law, deep belief in the importance of a faith that does justice, and tremendous concern for those in society who have been marginalized and forgotten, said Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh.

“Fr. Frank genuinely loved those with whom he was in relationship,” said President McCulloh. “He saw goodness in every person, and through his ministry encouraged others to do the same. He is, and will always be remembered by generations of Gonzaga alumni, faculty, staff and friends for his insight and intelligence, his wonderful sense of humor, his compassion — and above all, an unshakeable belief in the power of the Holy Spirit, active and at work in the world.”

A Spokane native, Fr. Costello entered the Society of Jesus in 1939 in Sheridan, Oregon, and was ordained in 1952, in Spokane. Fr. Costello earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Gonzaga, a second master’s degree from Fordham University, and his doctorate from Georgetown University. He taught briefly at Bellarmine Preparatory School in Tacoma, Washington, and at Gonzaga before joining, in 1959, the faculty at Seattle University where he became head of the political science department, academic vice president, and executive vice president.

Fr. Costello returned to Gonzaga as a political science professor in 1970 and served as department chair and advisor for pre-law students for many years. At Gonzaga, he served as acting academic vice president and was rector of the Jesuit community both at Gonzaga and Gonzaga Preparatory School. When he retired from teaching in 1990, then-President Bernard J. Coughlin, S.J., bestowed upon him the title professor emeritus. That same year he was appointed vice president of the University with duties that included advising faculty and students in the Law School and helping to raise funds for the Law School building.

Blaine Garvin, professor of political science, and longtime colleague of Fr. Costello’s, noted his friend’s connections and influence.

“He knew all the politicians of significance in the state from Henry Jackson to Tom Foley, both Democrats, of course. But it says something important that one of Frank’s closest friends was John Spellman, the Republican governor of Washington,” said Garvin, whom Fr. Costello hired.

Garvin said Fr. Costello became a mentor to “legions of students,” many destined for law school, politics or both.

“I remember one day talking about a statewide election held the day before. ‘Well,’ Frank said, ‘I better call my former student and console him. He ran the losing campaign.’ He smiled. ‘Then I’ll call my other student who ran the winning campaign.’ I became convinced that he knew every judge and most of the lawyers in town,” Garvin said.

Fr. Costello was involved in several peace advocacy organizations, including the Catholic Association for International Peace and the World Without War Council. He remained active in the life of the University right up until his move to Los Gatos in April of 2015.

He is survived by 11 nieces and nephews, 24 great-nieces and nephews, and 14 great-great-nieces and nephews. Among his survivors are the following Gonzaga alumni: Tim Costello (’75), Ann Hauer (nd), James Hauer (’00), Lachlan MacLean (’06) and Frank Petrich (’81). He is predeceased by six siblings, including his oldest brother Fr. William T. Costello, S.J., a professor of English and chair of Gonzaga’s English department who died in 1963 at age 49.

Fr. Costello often referenced Thomas Jefferson in his American political thought classes as an example of exemplary political leadership. Because he requested that no funds bearing his name be created at Gonzaga, Fr. Costello’s many friends and admirers established the Thomas Jefferson Endowed Scholarship in 2008.

Memorial contributions may be sent to: Gonzaga University, Attention University Advancement, Thomas Jefferson Endowed Scholarship Fund, 502 E.  Boone Ave., Spokane, WA 99258-0098. Memorials may also be contributed to the Senior Jesuit Fund, Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, P.O. Box 86010, Portland, Ore., 97286.

A livestream video of the funeral will be available through the St. Aloysius Church website.

Gonzaga invites you to please share your thoughts, prayers, memories and reflections about Fr. Costello in the space provided below.

  1. Robert Swartz
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 8:56 am

    Costello, Garvin, Adjemian – three of the best. I had the privilege to be their students in the mid-1970’s. Fr. Frank and I did not “hit it off” instantly, perhaps because I felt a bit intimidated by such a sharp mind, and a bit out of place as a transfer student who could see how well liked he was by other students that knew him – had had him in other classes. He challenged me without apology and I appreciated his honesty. His life of service to others is one to celebrate, and his love for all who were lucky enough to know him is an example to try and follow.

  2. Robert Rene' Thomas
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    Fr Costello was more than a teacher to me he was like a father. He took me under his wings when I first arrived at Gonzaga. He lived across the hall from me at Desmet and became not only a true friend but also a mentor, parent and a man who wanted me to succeed. His guidance of my education along with Fr. Coughlin made sure that I had the finances to complete my education at Gonzaga. He and I talked on a regular basis while he was at Gonzaga and after he moved to California.He performed the wedding for my wife and me in Colorado in 2003. While there he made many new friends. My wife’s parents loved him dearly and looked forward to his annual Christmas letters. He and I had a special relationship that will endure for ever. The last time time that I saw him was at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center. My wife and I went and picked him up and took him to dinner last year. We had a good time but I knew when I left that it would be the last time that we would see each other and I think that I did too. We last spoke on the phone two weeks ago and our conversation was good but I could tell that he was failing. I told him that I loved him and he said he loved me too. He was one of the best friends that I will ever have because he cared and took care of me even in my adult years. May God give him safe journeys on his way home. God Bless to a man who meant so much to so many.
    Robert Rene’ Thomas
    Class of 1980

  3. Renee Lamb
    Posted May 29, 2016 at 8:44 am

    RIP Fr. Costello

  4. Michael M Pacheco
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Sad news indeed.
    I first met Father Costello when I transferred from WSU to Gonzaga in the Fall of 1972. I left the state school because with a 4.0 GPA I didn’t feel challenged. Father Costello took care of that right away.
    As a political science major I had Father Costello as my advisor and with his help, I planned out my undergraduate coursework. My GPA went down but my satisfaction with my education went up. Father Costello also followed my personal life to a greater degree than I think any other college professor might have. He knew my Gonzaga boxing record, wins and losses as well as my partying habits (surprising me and my roommates a couple of times at Roncalli Hall). He also provided me with a recommendation that I’m sure was the reason I got into Georgetown Law School.
    I only saw him once more about ten years ago in Salem Oregon. He was at Willamette Law School visiting a younger student when he apparently noticed me leaving the building. “Hey! There’s our boxer,” he said. We enjoyed each a brief visit before saying farewell for the final time.
    God Bless his Soul.