Loyola celebrates life of Paul Bagley, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy, a faculty member who “endured cheerfully”
A beloved professor, colleague, and inspirational supporter of Loyola athletics, Paul J. Bagley, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy at Loyola University Maryland, died in Baltimore on Wednesday, July 13, after a series of recent illnesses. He was 61.
Bagley taught undergraduate philosophy courses at Loyola for 25 years, covering topics from modernity to natural law and the works of Spinoza, Descartes, and Plato. He was a former co-director of the Catholic Studies program who was dedicated to the Catholic intellectual tradition. He co-taught a course on contemporary Catholic intellectual life with James Buckley, Ph.D., professor of theology, who has worked with Bagley since he joined Loyola’s philosophy faculty in 1990.
“Students loved him. He was a scholar. He loved philosophy, loved teaching in it, loved writing in it, and he was really a campus person,” said Buckley. “Paul became a sign of endurance, as a faculty member enduring cheerfully.”
Bagley was diagnosed with diabetes at age 18 and experienced kidney failure in 2000. He was on dialysis for two years, and underwent kidney and pancreas transplants in 2002. Then, in 2008, a serious car accident left him paraplegic. He returned to teach at Loyola in the spring 2010 semester and continued until he fell ill in spring 2016.
His department colleagues Dale Snow, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy, and Frank Cunningham, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of philosophy, stepped in to teach the two undergraduate classes on his schedule. Snow wasn’t surprised Bagley’s students were crestfallen when they learned he wouldn’t return.
“A scholar and a gentleman, there aren’t very many left. And he did both really, really well,” said Snow, who was close to Bagley for 28 years. “He often had the last word, and sometimes it was in Latin. He livened up many a stuffy department meeting with exactly the right observation in the right tone at the right time.”
Snow and Bagley were hired around the same time and regarded themselves as the same departmental generation. When Snow served as department chair and collected required annual updates from philosophy faculty members, Bagley always completed his first and prepared it best. He thought through everything he did down to the finest detail.
“And I loved him for it,” said Snow.
Snow’s husband, James Snow, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of philosophy, also knew Bagley for more than two decades. He recalls never leaving Bagley’s office without a smile, thanks to Bagley’s tremendously dry sense of humor.
And he, too, was inspired by his fellow professor’s commitment to his craft in the face of adversity.
“His return to teaching was a gift to students and an inspiration to me, a friend and colleague,” James Snow said. “As I would watch Paul heading off to class, I often wondered if in his place I could do what he was doing, day in and day out. And I could never say with complete confidence that I could.”
He was also an inspiration to Loyola athletics, particularly the men’s lacrosse team. He began visiting the team’s practice in his wheelchair during the 2010 season, meeting with the team to “say something philosophical,” in the words of the student-athletes at the time. He continued to attend practices in subsequent seasons and would email motivational messages before games. Deep into the team’s national championship run in the 2012, his messages would often address the need to stay grounded by managing success.
His presence on the sidelines is irreplaceable.
“We have lost a very dear friend. I feel so fortunate to have someone like Dr. Bagley in not only my life, but also with our program,” said men’s lacrosse head coach Charley Toomey. “As our ‘team philosopher,’ he has impacted everyone in our locker room with his words, wisdom, and passion. Our biggest fan is now an angel looking down on us. Dr. Bagley’s visits to Ridley Athletic Complex were something that Loyola men’s lacrosse players will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Bagley was born in Germany and moved several times around the United States and to Italy during his childhood. In 2008, shortly before the accident that confined him to a wheelchair, he married Susan Whitson Bagley, ’13, M.A. ’14. She drove him to and from campus each day during the academic year.
Bagley’s scholarship focused on early modern philosophy, ancient philosophy, Spinoza, Plato, and political philosophy. He was the author of Philosophy, Theology, and Politics: A Reading of Benedict Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-politicus and numerous peer-reviewed articles and book reviews. He frequently presented at conferences and lectures nationally and internationally and held professional memberships in Vereniging het Spinozahuis, American Philosophical Association (eastern division), Metaphysical Society of America, North American Spinoza Society, American Catholic Philosophical Association, and Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.
His extensive service to Loyola included membership on committees for a diverse set of disciplines and programs. Before his death, Bagley decided to donate his body to the Board of Science, telling his wife that science had been good to him and he wanted to give back.
Throughout all of his work at Loyola, Bagley continued to be deliberate about making time to connect meaningfully with those around him.
“He kept us laughing, he endeavored to keep us honest, to keep us focused. He did not mince words if he felt passionately about something, so you always knew where you were with Paul,” said Dale Snow. “He was a person without pretense. And you would think that those of us who are engaged in the search for truth as a profession would be better at that, but he surpassed us all.”
Bagley is survived by his wife and his children, Katherine, '09, and Michael, '16.
Details about services for Paul Bagley will be posted when available. His wife has requested donations to Loyola Athletics in lieu of flowers.