University of St. Thomas Remembers Father Victor Brezik, CSB
Philosopher, theologian, visionary and cornerstone of the institution – the University of St. Thomas said goodbye to Rev. Victor Brezik, CSB. He died the morning of Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at the age of 96.
A Funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, June 22 at St. Anne’s Catholic Church, 2140 Westheimer Rd. A viewing is scheduled from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Thursday, June 18 in the Chapel of St. Basil on the UST campus, and from 7-9:30 p.m. Sunday, June 21, with the Wake Service at 7:30 p.m. in the Chapel of St. Basil.
Fr. Brezik, who joined the UST faculty in 1954, was the University’s oldest living scholar. Adopting the personal motto, “Dare to do whatever you can,” from his favorite philosopher, St. Thomas Aquinas, Fr. Brezik’s philosophical attitude and vision stretched the imaginations and inspired generations of students and colleagues. In addition to his many contributions to the University, Fr. Brezik co-founded the University of St. Thomas’ Center for Thomistic Studies. In 1975 Fr. Brezik teamed up with Houston Philanthropist Hugh Roy Marshall, ’74, to renew interest in the teachings of the medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas.
In creating the Center for Thomistic Studies, Fr. Brezik and Marshall, who earned a degree in philosophy, established the only doctoral program at the University and the only graduate philosophy program in the United States uniquely focused on the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas.
“The Center for Thomistic Studies, where the wisdom of Thomas Aquinas could be brought to bear on the problems of the contemporary world, was Fr. Brezik’s great dream and he never stopped working for it,” said Dr. Mary Catherine Sommers, Center for Thomistic Studies director. “He taught the Center’s first graduate students and, when he retired, continued to write on philosophical and theological issues into the last year of his life. He met each new class of graduate students and attended colloquia and departmental parties up until a few months before his death. Our last conversation, just days ago was not about him, his health or the pain he was suffering, but about the future of the Center and the work it does for the University and for the Church. He was ‘Texas tough,’ physically, mentally and spiritually.”
Born in Hallettsville, Texas on May 2, 1913, Fr. Brezik attended St. Thomas High School in Houston, and graduated in the class of 1931. He went on to join the Basilian order in 1932, and was ordained as a priest in 1940. He studied in Toronto and received his Licentiate in Mediaeval Studies in 1943 at the Pontifical Institute, center of the North American Renaissance in Thomistic philosophy, and his doctorate in 1944. Fr. Brezik returned to Houston in 1954 to join the faculty at the University of St. Thomas. He was named Basilian Superior in 1955.
At UST, he served as a professor of philosophy from 1954 to 1986, and his service to the University continued until his resignation from the board of directors in 2005. He served on the board of directors for a total of 24 years, from 1969-1979, and from 1992 to 2005. The University bestowed on Fr. Brezik an honorary doctorate at the 1989 Commencement Ceremony. Fr. Brezik and Marshall were honored with the Order of St. Thomas Award at the 2008 St. Thomas Aquinas Lecture, held on Jan. 31. The award is presented each year to persons who have testified to the value of the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas in their writings, teachings philanthropy and way of life.
The Reverend Victor Brezik, CSB, Endowed Scholarship for graduate students in philosophy at the Center for Thomistic Studies was established on March 26, 1999 by the Basilian Fathers of Toronto. The scholarship/fellowship is awarded to students at University of St. Thomas who are accepted for regular admission into the graduate program of the Center for Thomistic Studies and who meet all scholarship academic requirements. Gifts in memory of Fr. Brezik can be made to the Center for Thomistic Studies at the University of St. Thomas. Checks can be mailed to University of St. Thomas, Institutional Advancement, 3800 Montrose Blvd., Houston, TX 77006.
Fr. Patrick Braden, CSB, and Fr. Brezik both joined the UST faculty in 1954. Fr. Braden recalled many shared adventures including long cross-country drives in a restored Mercedes Benz to see Basilian Fathers in Toronto, and another road trip to visit East Coast Ivy League Universities and locations of historical interest. Braden also remembered Fr. Brezik as an avid sports fan. A former athlete on the St. Thomas High School football and baseball teams, Fr. Braden said that even late in life, Fr Brezik closely followed the St. Thomas high school baseball and football teams.
“Serving on the board of directors for many years, Fr. Brezik provided the University with wise counsel in a variety of areas,” Fr. Braden said. “His writings in philosophy and his sermons have been an inspiration to many of us.”
Read more of Fr. Brezik’s writings:
• One Hundred Years of Thomism Aeterni Patris and Afterwards A Symposium
• The Role of Faith in University Education
• Remembering Ninety Five Years: A Partial Synopsis
• Is it Possible to Fulfill the Law of Charity
• The Academic Mall and the University Academic Program
Photos top to bottom: Undated portrait of Fr. Brezik in recent years; portrait of Fr. Brezik taken at his 1940 Ordination; Fr. Brezik shown on campus in the 1970s; Fr. Brezik shown at center with members of the board of directors - 1973; Dr. Christopher Martin, Fr. Brezik, Hugh Roy Marshall and Dr. Robert Ivany - Fr. Brezik and Marshall presented with the Order of St. Thomas Aquinas Award in Jan. 2008; Faculty of the Center for Thomistic Studies at Fr. Brezik's 95th birthday party in May 2008. Photos courtesy of UST Archives and Marketing Communications.