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Carroll Julian Bourg

Fisk Professor, Former Jesuit, and Peacemaker

Carroll Julian Bourg was born on 22 November 1928 in Thibodaux, Louisiana and died on 12 April 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. He grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland and graduated from Gonzaga High School in Washington, DC, in 1946. After briefly attending Georgetown University, he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, where he prepared to become a Catholic priest. Carroll studied philosophy at Spring Hill College (1951–53) and theology at Woodstock College (1957–61), in between teaching mathematics and serving as bandleader at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He took his vows as a priest in 1960.

Shortly thereafter he began the doctoral program in Sociology at Brandeis University. Deeply affected by the Civil Rights movements (he attended the 1963 March on Washington) and the Second Vatican Council (about which he “read everything”), Carroll gravitated toward what he called in his 1967 Ph.D. dissertation “sociology as participation.” During his doctoral research, he met the woman who would become his wife, Karen Fernekees. He left the Jesuit order in 1967, and he and Karen were married on 3 July 1968 in Boston, Massachusetts. They then moved to Nashville where he chaired the Sociology Department at Fisk University until his retirement in 1996.

In the 1970s, Carroll worked on the sociology of religion and the study of the elderly. With his students he created the Nashville Directory of Senior Services. He edited the journal Sociological Analysis (1973–1980) and served as the President of the Society for the Sociology of Religion in 1980. He was an early member of the Belmont-Hillsboro Neighborhood Association and an organizer of Citizens for Better Neighborhoods, which successfully advocated major design changes to the I-440 parkway that reduced noise and created greens spaces.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Carroll became interested in comparative civilizations and world history, meanwhile continuing to reflect on peace, non-violence, anti-racism, and Catholic social thought. Before and after his retirement, he participated in a number of local and national community organizations: the Nashville Peace and Justice Center, the Council of Community Services, and Pax Christi. He was an early riser, took up jogging, liked dinner table conversation, and had a great singing voice.

A voracious and tireless reader, he enjoyed knowing about the world and was curious about what others were doing. When a stroke in the late 1990s partially impaired his vision, he developed an enthusiasm for film. “There are always new things to learn,” he would say, even in the last weeks of his life, “there are many ways to go in the world.” He always found delight in the little things; he thought the black raspberry ice cream on Cape Cod was “pretty good,” and that the sunrise and the birds in the backyard were “marvelous.” He is survived by his wife, Karen; his sons, Julian and Jonathan; his daughter, Kristen, and her husband, Steve; his grandchildren, Sarah, Evan, and Will; and his sisters Mary Frances, Terry, and Kathy. He is preceded in death by his sister Julie Anne and his brother Ted.

A service will be held at Fisk University Memorial Chapel (1000 17th Avenue North, Nashville 37208) on Tuesday, 21 April 2015 at 4:00 p.m. Reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made either to Fisk University, in memory of Dr. Carroll J. Bourg (http://www.fisk.edu [1]), or to Alive Hospice of Nashville (http://www.alivehospice.org).