The Baritone Voice

Remembering Theodore “Ted” Rynes, S.J., who pushed his students to do better and think deeper.

Remembering Theodore “Ted” Rynes, S.J.
The Captain Ahab beard. The seersucker suits. Theodore “Ted” Rynes (pronounced RYE-ness), S.J., cut a distinctive, towering figure on campus for 45 years. He taught generations of Santa Clara students how to appreciate literature and life. He would be teaching this quarter if he hadn’t passed away from lymphoma May 29 at the age of 83.

Students called him “C-minus Rynes” because he held their work to high standards. “But no teacher worked harder or cared more,” says Christine Long Brunkhorst ’83, who became such a fan that she took seven courses from him. The two remained friends for life, and she became a high school English teacher. Her poetic appreciation of the priest, “The Green Knight” (green corduroy was another favorite suit choice of his), appears at the magazine’s website. Another former student, Katherine “Kitty” Woodall ’78 established the Canterbury Scholarship in his name to celebrate his first 30 years of teaching.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Rynes entered the Jesuit order after high school, was ordained in 1962, and took his final vows as a Jesuit in 1965. He planned to return to his roots in the Midwest while finishing his dissertation in neoclassical British literature at U.C. Berkeley. There were no English positions open at Creighton or Marquette, however, so he ended up down the road from Berkeley at Santa Clara. From day one, he poured all his energy into teaching.

As his curriculum vitae frankly declared, he had no publications. Rynes’ method was to push students to examine life’s deeper truths through literature, tapping Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope alongside Kazuo Ishiguro and William Golding. His favorite course to teach was The Bible as Literature.

Rynes had an office in St. Joseph’s Hall across the corridor from writer Ron Hansen M.A. ’95, the Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., Professor of Arts and Humanities. Hansen saw his friend working for hours with students to improve their papers, “gently guiding them toward finer conclusions, and then heroically and painstakingly correcting and commenting on their final compositions.” After the priest’s passing, Hansen wrote that faculty friends were saddened by his death “but feel even greater regret that so many future students here will not have the opportunity to be schooled by him.”

Read “The Green Knight”:

post-image Courtesy SCU Archives
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