Thomas Landy | University of Portland

Thomas Landy

Thomas Landy is at once an influential Catholic educator whose work has strengthened the bedrock of lay educators in Catholic higher education throughout the United States, and a humble scholar of the wonder and diversity of global Catholic cultures. At a time when start-ups come and go, Landy has a unique ability to build educational initiatives with staying power. In 1991, he founded Collegium, a consortium of more than 60 North American Catholic colleges and universities, with the goal of developing the faith and intellectual life of lay educators. The reason? He’d seen the trends. Vocations were decreasing, as were educators who had taken religious vows. There needed to be an effort to engage the next generation of educational leaders in Catholic higher education. So, he set about creating that engagement. More than 30 years later, Collegium is still going strong, with programming throughout the year and an annual colloquy, where faculty of varying religious backgrounds and disciplines gather for soul-nourishing fellowship and learning. Many University of Portland professors and academic leaders have reaped the benefits of this summer conference. Landy’s second “start-up” is the website Catholics & Cultures (, which he created in 2015 as an outgrowth of his ethnographic research in more than 30 countries. It serves as a resource for educators in the United States who may want to teach about the ways in which culture manifests in Catholic practices throughout the world. Landy is keenly interested in how lay people live their Catholic faith within their culture. A few examples: The church in Ethiopia is as old as Rome and has its own distinct traditions built up independently across millennia, including a liturgy that can last three hours and the incorporation of the Ge’ez language not dissimilar to the use of Latin before Vatican II. In Yap, an island state of the Federated States of Micronesia, Holy Thursday involves a vigil of mourning songs before the cross. In a desert region of northern Chile, a summertime 24-hour dance tradition with elaborate costumes honors the Virgen del Carmen. At present, Landy is the director of the Rev. Michael C. McFarland, SJ Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, where he runs a timely discussion series that responds to the pressing concerns of the moment. He and his partner, Phillip Petree, live in a suburb of Boston.