Remembering the Rev. Gerald Sabo, S.J.


Father Gerald Sabo was an associate professor of Slavic languages and literature. (Photo by Pierce Srail)

Rachel Scully, Campus Editor

The Rev. Gerald Sabo, S.J., associate professor of Slavic languages and literature, passed away suddenly on Saturday, Oct. 24. He was 75 years old. 

A Connecticut native, Sabo has been a dedicated professor at John Carroll University since 1981. In 1969, he joined the New England Province of the Society of Jesus and was ordained a priest in 1980. 

Sabo exhibited an impressive education, earning a degree in Theology at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is now part of Boston College, and a doctorate in Eastern European Languages at Yale. Despite this, Sabo preferred to be called “Father” over “Doctor.”

Faculty and staff who worked with Sabo said that he was a pleasure to be around and will be deeply missed.

The Rev. Jim Bretzke, S.J., professor of Theology, said he has known Sabo since 1978.

“Father Sabo was probably one of the most even-keel Jesuits I know, with a great love for people and a wonderful sense of humor,” Bretzke said. “He also was very disciplined in his personal life and teaching, but without ever becoming rigid.”

Bretzke added that while Sabo was not interested in technology, as he never owned a cell phone, he made sure to adapt his teaching methods when needed. 

“He was not exactly what we call an ‘early-adopter’ of technology, but once COVID struck, Father Sabo spent an immense amount of time and energy trying to learn as much as he could about the techniques of doing online education,” he said.

“He will be greatly greatly missed!” Bretzke added.

“Father Jerry Sabo was a fine and generous Jesuit; he worked extremely hard at his classes, learning how to teach online, even during the last months of his life,” said the Rev. Thomas Pipp, S.J., director of Ignatian Formation at John Carroll. “I admired his great dedication to his students. He will be missed by many.”

“He loved John Carroll and was a fiercely loyal friend and devoted teacher,” President Michael Johnson said in a statement. “He knew generations of alumni and was always glad to hear from former students and parents.”

“Father Sabo was a stalwart member of our department who will be dearly missed. Some colleagues had known him for 40 years, and his sudden passing is a true shock to all of us,” said Gwendolyn Compton-Engle, professor and department chair of Classical and Modern Languages and Cultures.

Katherine Gatto, professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies, was a close colleague of Sabo. She and Sabo shared many academic conferences, panels, presentations and research interest in their common area of East European Studies. 

“Father Sabo was a kind, witty, brilliant colleague and friend,” said Gatto. “He enriched the department’s academic, cultural and social life through his sponsorship of numerous Fulbright scholars from Slovakia. He had a razor sharp mind and was known for his witticisms. He would spend many late Friday afternoons regaling us with clever and humorous stories. I can’t believe that such a vibrant and monumental presence in the CMLC department has left us. We are heartbroken and so much the poorer for it.”

A socially distanced funeral for Sabo will be held this Thursday, Oct. 29 at Gesu Church in University Heights. The viewing starts at 9:30 a.m., followed by the funeral at 10:30 a.m. After, he will be buried at All Saints Cemetery in Northfield. The funeral mass will also be live-streamed for those who cannot be there in person.