Robert Spitzer (priest)

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Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., (b. May 16, 1952) is a Jesuit priest, philosopher, educator, author, speaker, and retired President of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Spitzer is founder and currently active as President of Magis Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to public education concerning the complementary relationship among the varied disciplines of physics, philosophy, reason, and faith. He is also the Chief Education Officer of the Ethics and Performance Institute which delivers web-based ethics education to corporations and individuals. He is also President of the Spitzer Center of Catholic Organizations, which helps cultivate cultures of evangelization in Catholic dioceses, parishes, schools, and other organizations.

Early life[edit]

Robert J. Spitzer was born in Honolulu, then the United States Territory of Hawaii, on May 16. 1952, the son of Arthur H. Spitzer and Blanche H. VanOort Spitzer. He went to Punahou School, graduating in 1970 as a member of the National Honor Society.[1]


Spitzer received the degree of Bachelors of Business Administration, with a focus on Public Accounting and Finance (magna cum laude) from Gonzaga University in 1974. He then received a Masters degree in Philosophy from St. Louis University (magna cum laude) in 1978, a Masters of Divinity degree from the Gregorian University in Rome (summa cum laude) in 1983, a Master of Theology degree in Scripture from the Weston School, now the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, (summa cum laude) in 1984, and a Doctor of Philosophy from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC (summa cum laude) in 1988. His dissertation, under Paul Weiss, is entitled A Study of Objectively Real Time.

Academic career[edit]

Spitzer began his teaching career at St. Louis University as a teaching assistant in 1978. He continued at Seattle University as an instructor of philosophy from 1978 to 1980. He taught as an assistant professor of philosophy at Georgetown University from 1984 to 1990, where he received the Bunn Medal for Most Outstanding Faculty Member in 1989. He then proceeded to Seattle University (1990–1998) where he was tenured as an associate professor of philosophy in 1996. During that time he held the Frank Shrontz chair of professional ethics (1997–1998) and won the award for outstanding faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences in 1997.

On September 17, 1998, Spitzer was inaugurated as the 25th President of Gonzaga University. He is credited[2] with bringing a period of growth in the physical plant and student population, as well as a position of financial health to Gonzaga, and for increasing the focus on the Catholic, Jesuit identity of the university during his tenure and until he retired from that position in July 2009.

Religious career[edit]

Spitzer entered the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus in August 1974. He took his first religious vows in August 1976. He was ordained a priest in June 1983, and professed the fourth vow particular to the Society in April 1994. His theological interests focus on two areas: fundamental theology and New Testament scripture studies. He is the co-director of the Institute on Faith and Reason at Gonzaga University.

Spitzer's interests in New Testament scripture studies focus on Christology, his thesis at the Gregorian University in Rome was entitled, The Influence of Sophia Speculation on Early Christological Hymns. His thesis at the Weston School in Cambridge, for which he won the American Bible Society award, is entitled, The Depth Grammar of "Pneuma" and "En Christo" in I Cor: 12. He is currently completing a book on Christology entitled, The Unconditional Love of God in Jesus Christ.

Spitzer has served the Church in a variety of different capacities: as an advisor to the Theological Committee of the Washington State Catholic Conference between 1994-98 as spiritual director to contemplative religious communities, as advisor to lay religious groups, and as a lecturer in Catholic Higher Education, fundamental theology, Christology, Ecclesiology and spirituality. He has also been a featured guest and series host on the Eternal Word Television Network.

Spitzer belongs to several Catholic professional associations: the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the American Catholic Philosophical Association, the Jesuit Philosophical Association, and the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.

Writing and publications[edit]


The Spirit of Leadership: Optimizing Creativity and Change in Organizations (Provo, Utah: Executive Excellence Publishers, June 2000).

Healing the Culture: A Commonsense Philosophy of Happiness, Freedom, and the Life Issues (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, October 2000).

Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life: A Practical Guide for Active People (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008)

New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010)

Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues (San Francisco; Ignatius Press, 2010)


Proofs for the Existence of God Part I: A Metaphysical Argument (International Philosophical Quarterly, Vol 41:2--June 2001) pp 162–186.

Proofs for the Existence of God Part II: (A Cosmological Argument and a Lonerganian Argument) (International Philosophical Quarterly, Vol 41:3--Sept 2001) pp 305–331.

Indications of Creation in Contemporary Big Bang Cosmology. (Philosophy in Science, Vol 10, 2003, pp 35–106.)

Definitions of Real Time and Ultimate Reality (Journal of Ultimate Reality and Meaning, Vol 23:3--Sept 2000) pp 260–276, for which he received the section editors’ award for the best article between 1999–2001

Indications of Creation in Contemporary Astrophysics (Journal of Ultimate Reality and Meaning, Vol 24:3-Sept 2001) pp. 1–50.

Indications of Supernatural Design in Big Bang Cosmology (Journal of Ultimate Reality and Meaning, Vol 27:4) pp 265–287

Getting to the Heart of Ethics (Journal of Business and Professional Ethics, Vol 25:1, Spring 2006)

He has published other articles in a variety of journals and collections concerned with leadership, metaphysics, ethics, ontology of physics, and higher education.

Father Spitzer has also produced eight television series for EWTN since 1998 (see EWTN catalog).

As of August, 2010, he is in the process of submitting four other manuscripts:

Jesus-Emmanuel: A Philosopher Looks at the Evidence for the Unconditional Love of God and the Divinity of Christ.

Suffering and the Love of God (with Mary Cunningham Agee).

Happiness (with John Keenan).

Organizational Ethics (with John Keenan).

He continues to write articles in leadership, ethics, higher education, metaphysics, and the ontology of physics. He gives approximately 60 public speeches per year in the above five topic areas.

Founder of institutes and organizations[edit]

Spitzer has founded or co-founded seven institutes and organizations since 1987.

Magis Institute[edit]

Upon his retirement from Gonzaga, Spitzer founded the Magis Institute, which operates the Magis Center for Reason and Faith in Irvine, California, "to explore the close connection between reason and faith as revealed by new discoveries in astrophysics and philosophy." The Institute publishes books, produces documentaries, and creates video casts, podcasts, and written materials for its website and new media venues. It also produces high school curricula, college curricula, and adult education curricula.

As president of the institute, Spitzer continues to write, teach, and speak on the issues of philosophy of science, metaphysics, theology, and ethics.[3]

On 10 September 2010, Spitzer was a panelist on a full-hour prime-time feature with Stephen Hawking dealing with the relationship of faith and reason on Larry King Live (CNN). The program also featured noted author Deepak Chopra and Hawking's co-author, Leonard Mlodinow.[4]

Ethics and Performance Institute[edit]

In 2010, Spitzer co-founded the Ethics and Performance Institute in Seattle, Washington. The institute provides web-based ethics education to corporations and individuals.

Spitzer Center of Catholic Organizations[edit]

Spitzer founded this organization in 2005 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The organization focuses on development of ethics-based leadership for non-profit organizations.

Colleagues in Jesuit Business Education[edit]

Located in Seattle, Washington, and Spokane, Washington, and co-founded by Spitzer in 1993.

Healing the Culture[edit]

A Seattle-based organization co-founded by Spitzer in 1998.

Philosophical Foundations of Physics[edit]

Co-founded by Spitzer in 1998, Philosophical Foundations of Physics is located in Washington, DC.

University Faculty for Life[edit]

A Washington, D.C. organization founded by Spitzer, University Faculty for Life began in 1987.


  1. ^ information current as of 1 September 2010, from
  2. ^
  3. ^ Spitzer, Robert J, S.J. New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010)
  4. ^ Transcript Link:

External links[edit]