We are honored to circulate the following letter, written by the founding President of the USFFA Michael Lehmann, in remembrance of Frank Buckley S.J.:
Our colleague Frank Buckley, SJ died on July 9 at the age of 84.
Frank served our Union during its time of troubles – from the late 1970s through the late 1980s – as Secretary and member of the Negotiating Team, Executive Board and Policy Board. His courage, resolve and intelligence were instrumental throughout those dark days in building and preserving our material well-being, our due process and our dignity.
One day in the early 1980s, while walking across Harney Plaza, the Negotiating Team came upon the downtown attorney the University had retained to represent it at the bargaining table. The attorney quickly identified himself as a Roman Catholic and, while looking Frank up and down, wondered out loud what a man of the cloth was doing on our side of the table. Frank patiently explained that ever since the great encyclical Rerum Novarum (1890) the Church had supported employees’ rights to collective bargaining and union representation. The attorney, displaying his impatience, expressed his view that collective bargaining on campus was unnecessary because the University was a good employer. Frank, always patient, made clear that unions do not exist solely as an antidote for bad employers any more than democracy exists solely as an antidote for bad dictators. Both employees and citizens deserve representation of their own choosing under all circumstances and whenever they wish. The man from downtown could contain himself no longer and blurted out, “Yes… Yes… But why you?” To which Frank responded, in no uncertain terms, how important it was to practice what one preached, that a person’s good words meant little unless supported by equivalent deeds, and that the struggle for social justice demanded action more than moralizing.
Frank realized that union representation – like democracy – occasionally led to struggle and strife. And occasionally Jesuit administrators took umbrage and criticized him for his leadership role in a union that they viewed as a thorn in their side. Frank endured their barbs with his customary patience and goodwill. Yet he was always clear about the importance of putting principles into practice. In his farewell address to the University community, given at Loyola House and attended by the University administration, Frank said that among all his accomplishments at USF he was most proud of his service to the Union. That was quite a statement from a man who authored 10 books and over 100 articles, co-authored perhaps the most successful and influential series of catechetical works for children in the post-Vatican II era, as well as serving on the Loyola Marymount University Board of Trustees and on the Board of Trustees of the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology (now Palo Alto University). Despite all of these accomplishments in teaching, research and service Frank reminisced only about the pleasure and privilege it was to serve with honor as a leader of the Faculty Association.
Frank’s friendship meant a great deal to Millie and me. He spent his retirement years at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, and Millie and I visited him there. We enjoyed long luncheons, discussing the Church and current events: How the struggles over women in the priesthood, gay marriage and family planning might and could be resolved.
Then Frank became bed ridden as the diabetes with which he had struggled all his life took an increasing toll. In his sparsely furnished infirmary room were the few mementos – a photo of his parents, a few books – of a spiritual life spent in service to others. On one wall, documenting Frank’s life, was a small collage of treasured photos: Boyhood, graduation, ordination, the priesthood. And there, sure enough, was a photo of Frank on our picket line, putting his principles into practice.
For his patience, good humor, ready smile and sense of honor, Frank – to my mind – was a truly holy man.