March 31, 2012

Jeanette Grider

Kevin O’Rourke, OP 1927-2012

Kevin O'Rourke, OP, professor emeritus and former director of the Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics at the Medical Center at Saint Louis University, died Wednesday, March 28. He was 85.

Kevin O'Rourke, OP

Father O'Rourke served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and attended the University of Notre Dame before entering the Dominican Order of Preachers in 1947 and taking his solemn vows in 1951. He completed a licentiate in philosophy at the Aquinas Institute of Theology in River Forest, Ill., in 1952. He also earned a licentiate of sacred theology from the Aquinas Institute of Theology in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1954.

After his ordination as a Dominican priest in 1954, Father O'Rourke went on to receive his juris canonici doctor from St. Thomas University in Rome in 1958. He also earned a doctorate in canon law and master of sacred theology - a degree given in the Dominican Order after successful teaching and writing for many years. In 1998, he also received an honorary doctorate of humanities from the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis.

In 1979, Father O'Rourke joined the faculty of Saint Louis University as director of the Center for Health Care Ethics, where he was named professor emeritus in 1999.

James DuBois, Ph.D., DSc, Hubert Mader Endowed Professor and director of the Bander Center for Medical Business Ethics, who spent time with Father O'Rourke at the Catholic Hospital Association conference two weeks ago, reflected on his life and work.

"He was a great man and a visionary leader," DuBois said. "As I looked around the room at the conference, I realized that about 25 percent of the people there had taught or studied at our Center, most of them having a strong tie to Kevin, who was an incredible inspiration. No one has had a greater positive impact on Catholic health care ethics in the United States."

Frances Horvath, M.D., Dean Emerita, of the Doisy College of Health Sciences, was a colleague of Father O'Rourke and recalled his dedication and energetic personality.

"He was a kind, considerate and thoughtful person with a great sense of humor," Horvath said. "He filled the room with his presence."

Prior to joining SLU, Father O'Rourke served as dean of the Aquinas Institute of Theology in Dubuque, Iowa; chairman of the Iowa Consortium Schools of Theology; and vice president of medical-moral affairs for the Catholic Hospital Association of St. Louis.

During a career that spanned more than five decades Father O'Rourke was considered a leading expert in the field of health care ethics and was the author of dozens of books and articles. He was honored with numerous awards, including the 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Catholic Health Association of St. Louis.

Visitation will be held from 5-7 p.m. Monday, April 2, at St. Vincent Ferrer Church, 1530 Jackson Avenue, River Forest, Ill., 60305. A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 3, at the church.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Ashley-O'Rourke Faculty Chair Fund in Health Care Mission at the Aquinas Institute of Theology, c/o Dominican Friars, Province of St. Albert the Great, 2005 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60608.


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