Today We Remember Our Founder John Felice
John P. Felice, founder and director emeritus of the John Felice Rome Center of Loyola University Chicago, was an educator famed for his remarkable leadership skills, diplomacy, collaborations and his warm, charitable, and untiring personality.
While serving in the British Armed Forces during World War II, Felice was deeply affected by the devastation he saw during the war. He determined that he would dedicate his life’s work to bridging cultural gaps and fostering education and tolerance.
After the war, Felice was received as a member of the Society of Jesus and was ordained to the Priesthood in 1957, where he remained active for over 15 years. He then accepted an assistant professorship of theology at Loyola University Chicago in 1959.
While teaching a summer program in 1961, Felice was invited to lunch with Italian President Giovanni Gronchi and American diplomat Clare Booth Luce. Luce opined that both Italy and America needed a large, permanent study-abroad program anchored in Rome. Wanting to seize the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Felice asked Gronchi if the Italian government could help start such a program.
In January 1962, the Loyola University Rome Center of Liberal Arts began with three faculty members and 92 students. Felice’s connections to people in power were a great asset during those founding years. He arranged outstanding opportunities for students, such as meeting the pope, cocktails with the president of Italy in his palace, and academic convocations with cardinals and ambassadors.
Throughout his tenure, Felice was well known for taking students on international excursions to expose them to other religions and cultures as a way of strengthening understanding and empathy between people. As early as 1963, students at the center were embarking on school-sponsored tours of the Middle East.
In 1973, Felice transitioned roles and began serving as the Rome Center’s dean of students. Felice continued as the dean of students and in various capacities until 1992, when, rather than retiring as planned, he was reappointed as the Rome Center’s director. Serving as director for another six years, he finally retired in 1998. During his retirement, he remained an active steward of the center until his passing in 2008.
In 2004, Loyola President Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., recognized Felice’s commitment to the center, which Felice had nurtured for so many years, by rechristening it the John Felice Rome Center. In 2006, Loyola presented Felice with the “Heart of Loyola” award to honor his extraordinary generosity and lifelong commitment to Jesuit education.
Looking back on the life of John Felice
1941-1945 - Served in the British 8th Army in the Siege of Malta and Invasion of Italy.
1946 - Received as a member of the Society of Jesus.
1957 - Ordained to the priesthood.
1959 - Appointed assistant professor of theology at Loyola University Chicago.
1961 - Met with the president of Italy; proposed the idea of the Rome Center.
1962 - Loyola University Rome Center begins; the class travels to Italy by ship.
1965 - Presented with one of Italy's highest awards, the Medaglio d'Oro; became a US citizen and received the US citizen of the year award.
1972 - Honored with the Knighthood of the Republic Medal.
1973 - Appointed dean of students at the Rome Center
1992 - Re-appointed director of the Rome Center.
2004 - Loyola President Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., names the center in his honor, as John Felice Rome Center.
2006 - Presented with the Heart of Loyola award.
To read more about the life of John Felice visit www.luc.edu/jfrcalumni/johnfelice