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SLU Professor Honored with Papal Doctorate Degree

by Jacob Born
Media Inquiries

Jacob Born
Communications Specialist

Reserved for members of the media.

Eleonore Stump, Ph.D., professor of philosophy at Saint Louis University, was honored recently by the Munich School of Philosophy, where she received a papal honorary doctorate for her dedication and expertise to religious philosophy throughout her decades-long career. 

Eleonore Stump stands in the middle of two men as she receives a papal doctorate degree.

Eleonore Stump, Ph.D. (middle) said receiving the papal honorary doctorate degree at the decree of Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope in Catholic history was a highlight of her decades-long career. Photo provided by Godehard Brüntrup, S.J., Ph.D.

“Throughout her distinguished career, Eleonore Stump has sought to show how the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas remains both relevant and helpful for today's pressing philosophical and theological questions,” said Scott Ragland, Ph.D., professor and philosophy department chair at SLU. “This honorary papal doctorate is a fitting recognition not only of the quality and international impact of her work, but also of its distinctively Catholic character. This well-deserved honor for Prof. Stump is also an honor for our department and for SLU!”

“Eleonore Stump has produced excellent work in the area of philosophy of religion, among other areas, for which she has been repeatedly honored world-wide,” added Michael Barber, S.J., acting chair of the department of philosophy at SLU. “Her great work over decades has shown how magnificent research can contribute to the Jesuit-Catholic mission of the University.”

As part of receiving her doctorate, Stump gave a speech about flourishing and suffering. For more than 20 minutes, Stump spoke about physical flourishing, mental flourishing and personal flourishing, and how flourishing is only possible through suffering. 

“It just seemed to me, it was important for us to think about suffering and humanity at this particular time in history,” Stump said. “I hope that everyone in attendance left with an understanding that their own willingness to give of themselves and suffer in service to others is the standard by which we can judge each one’s own progress towards being the sort of human being we all hope to be.”

For Stump, there’s a parallel to flourishing and the Society of Jesus, for the Jesuits dedicate themselves to the service of others. This connection to the betterment of others, sometimes at a personal sacrifice, is an example of how others can flourish in their own personal lives. Stump has a deep fondness and appreciation for the Jesuits, working at SLU for more than 30 years and within Jesuit education for even longer. It’s fitting that she receives her papal doctorate from Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope in Catholic history. 

“The Jesuits see God in all things,” Stump said.  “They give their hearts to a crucified Christ, and it is their intention not only to be the salt and light for Him and His church, but to remember that everything they have is a gift from God, and every gift is meant to be given back and shared with others. I am consoled by watching them in action, and gladdened to be in their company. And to receive such an award from them, I accept it with great gratitude.”

Stump was introduced by Godehard Brüntrup, S.J., Ph.D., who cataloged her many, many years studying philosophy, detailing her work at SLU and other institutions, ultimately leading to her receiving the American Philosophy Association Dewey Lecture in 2023.  Brüntrup noted Stump’s dedication to philosophy, Catholicism and the Jesuits, and said there was no one more deserving of the papal doctorate than she. 

"The reason why we awarded Eleonore Stump an honorary doctorate lies in her special commitment to Christian philosophy in general and to the Jesuits in particular,” Brüntrup said. “Although she had received excellent offers from some of the leading universities in the United States, she always turned them down, saying that she wanted to teach at a university with a clear Jesuit profile such as SLU. The Catholic tradition has valued the philosophy and theology of Thomas Aquinas which was emphasized especially by Pope Leo XIII. But due to the influence of many modern philosophical movements, the influence of Thomism has waned in the Catholic Tradition. But Stump has helped bring about a revival of Thomism, and her dedication to this subject and the impact she’s had on the overall philosophical community is why she is so deserving of this honor.”