John Patrick Foglio

March 23, 1929October 5, 2020

John Patrick Foglio

East Lansing - Fr. John P. Foglio, beloved over generations and over miles as Michigan State's "Father Jake," died peacefully at home on Oct. 5. He was 91.

Cherished as an adviser and friend to quarterbacks and to professors, to homesick freshmen and to drop-by doubters, he greeted Spartans with an open door and an open mind that became legendary lifetime gifts. His love and enthusiasm for the people, traditions, and mission of MSU reflected his profound respect for every person's dignity. He's been accurately called a "coach" and a "conscience," a "thinker" and a "taskmaster," a "leader" and a "Leatherneck."

He was a man of great ideas and great mischief.

Born in 1929, Foglio grew up in New Rochelle, New York, where he played football and baseball as a kid. He first came to Michigan State University as a student in 1948. At the time, his calling was a career in radio. "I didn't want to be a priest. I always knew I had to be a Christopher to carry Christ, but I wanted to do it as a human being and have a family and stuff," Foglio said during an interview in 2016. "My mother gave me a line that said, 'Radio gives wings to words and music.' And I was like, 'Yeah!' So, I was going to do it through radio."

Foglio worked at the MSU radio station, WKAR, as a student and graduated from MSU. with a bachelor's degree in Communication in 1951. His first job out of college was at TVB in Coldwater, Michigan, but it didn't last long. He was drafted into the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War and spent two years on active duty in the Atlantic Ocean. In 1957, he graduated from Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and was ordained a Roman Catholic Priest in 1961. In active ministry for more than 50 years, Foglio served St. John Student Parish near MSU's campus since 1970. He earned a Master of Divinity degree from St. John's Provincial Seminary in 1981 and a Doctor of Ministry degree from St. Mary's University in 1985. During much of that time, for more than 40 years, Foglio was a fixture in the MSU Athletic community, serving as Team Chaplain for the football team, an inspiration to the basketball team and other athletes, as well as spiritual advisor to many leaders within MSU Athletics.

In keeping with Fr. Jake's long-held quest for "dual excellence" in all MSU graduates, he leaves a profound legacy in the development of a culture of humanism in medical education within MSU's College of Human Medicine. From 1986 until his retirement in 1997, in addition to his priestly ministry, he was an Assistant Professor in the College of Human Medicine's Department of Family Medicine where he assisted with medical behavioral science teaching and counseling. He received the Lester J. Evans, MD, College of Human Medicine Distinguished Service Award in 2015. The annual Foglio Spirituality and Medicine Lecture was established in his honor by the College of Human Medicine.

Fr. Jake's work toward a unified approach within human medicine and spirituality led almost seamlessly to the development of the Foglio Chair in Spirituality at MSU. It honors his commitment to others, to the academic study of the human spirit, and to the Spartan family, the first chair in spirituality at a public university in the United States was created by MSU's College of Arts & Letters in Foglio's name.

"Father Jake sought to nurture the spiritual life of each person he encountered. He was a fierce advocate for a deep spirituality that challenged each of us to be our best selves," said Christopher P. Long, Dean of the College of Arts & Letters. "He committed his life to the pursuit of what he always called 'dual excellences,' recognizing that one cannot be excellent in one's chosen profession without being an excellent human being. The Foglio Chair of Spirituality in the College of Arts & Letters will ensure that Father Jake's legacy lives on in the lives of future Spartans in perpetuity."

The purpose of the Foglio Chair in Spirituality is to encourage students, faculty, and community members to understand what it means to be human, how to become more fully human, and to lead a meaningful and fulfilling life. Foglio's vision of spirituality is not tied to any specific religion or religious tradition. The Foglio Chair is intended to support a faculty member in Arts and Letters who articulates and exemplifies how a values-based commitment to the flourishing and fulfillment of human potential illuminates and enriches all walks of life.

"Father Foglio was so insightful that he knew this could make a tremendous impact on the lives of the students at Michigan State to teach them about the right things to do in life and how to take your spirituality to another level," said Kellie Dean, President and CEO of Dean Transportation, who was instrumental in helping establish the Foglio Chair. "It really is the first in the nation and it's perfect for Michigan State."

Dean, who helped raise funds for the chair, first met Father Foglio as a football player at MSU when Foglio served as Team Chaplain. "He did not want this named after him, but he was told that if we are going to do this that you are the visionary. You are the author. This must be in your name, so he said, 'OK, if that's going to help,'" Dean said. "We would meet and would strategize, and he would say, 'Kellie, you better hurry up and do this because I am not going to be around here forever.' A lot of generous folks have helped to get the proposed endowed chair in the position it is right now with full trustee board approval," Dean said, indicating they have done really well raising money for the chair, while additional support is still needed and appreciated, to ensure that "his name will continue to flourish and change many lives after his passing."

The Sam and Judy Eyde family are one of the donors to the Foglio Chair in Spirituality Endowment, crediting their long-standing relationship with Father Jake. "It was important to me", said Sam Eyde, "that I helped a man whose life emulated spirituality and helping every individual that he ever met in his life that he could help. I am so glad we did what we did while he was still alive."

On Sunday, Oct. 11, from 2-5 p.m. there will be a Covid-Safe opportunity for parish members and the public to say their farewells to Fr. Jake at a special lying-in-state viewing at St. John Student Parish, 327 MAC, East Lansing. In respect for Fr. Jake's legacy of promoting holistic health, those entering must be masked and must adhere to required social distancing as guided by church and funeral home staff. On Monday, Oct. 12, for immediate family and fellow priests only, there will be a closed, private Mass of Resurrection and Celebration of Christian Burial. In keeping with Father Jake's tradition of inclusivity, this will be recorded and available for viewing from 2 p.m. forward at Then, in the hopefully not too distant future, there will be a public community celebration of love, laughter, and legacy, already being planned, with the fitting theme of one of Jake's favorite hymns, "All Are Welcome!"

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts to the Foglio Chair in Spirituality in MSU's College of Arts & Letters and, the Fr. Jake Legacy Fund at St. John Church, would reflect a loving tribute to Father Jake, one that he would truly appreciate in memory of his legacy. Arrangements handled by Gorsline-Runciman, on-line expressions of sympathy, and memories may be shared at


  • Lying in State

    Sunday, October 11, 2020

  • Recorded video of Funeral Mass at

    Monday, October 12, 2020


John Patrick Foglio

have a memory or condolence to add?

Carol Ingells

October 13, 2020

There are not enough words to adequately describe how much I loved and respected Fr. Jake. We worked together in ecumenical ministry over many years. I was blessed to make a presentation at one of the first Spirituality and Medicine seminars he sponsored. While we weren't close friends technically, every encounter with him felt Christ-like, warm and lovable and left me uplifted and refreshed. In my eyes, Jake was a true saint.

Fred Graham

October 11, 2020

Jake, brother, you were the most mediocre tennis player I ever volleyed with. And such a good friend. Go in peace, and perhaps you will be able to welcome your many friends in the new life Christ will give you.

Lindsay Adams

October 11, 2020

I always enjoyed his sermons.
Especially his theological assertion and argument that Jesus was Italian.
His laughter was CONTAGIOUS.


Janet Norris

October 9, 2020

When I was a young bride who wanted to be a mother, I suffered years of infertility. When repeated hope and disappointment became unbearable, Jake encouraged me, “Hope is hope when there is no hope.” But, I said, I can’t keep hoping when it hurts so much that my body doesn’t work. In that case, Jake said, he would hope for me. I half joked that if he hoped and I ever gave birth, I’d name my baby after him. Several years later, I did give birth, and gratefully did name my son John. The first congratulatory call I got was from Jake, who impishly asked the baby’s name. When I told him, he whooped a delighted, “No s**t!” that still makes me laugh despite present sadness.

Jake passed away the day before John’s 40th birthday. Forevermore, I’ll celebrate “Dual Excellence” on the adjacent anniversaries of the day Jake was born to eternal life, and the birthday of his namesake, who does the name proud.

Requiesce in pace, Jake, big brother my heart chose. Your memory is a blessing. May perpetual light shine on you!

Vic and Elaine Weipert

October 9, 2020

Fr Jake was a dear friend which is what you became when you met him. Being with him was a celebration. His often “lengthy “ sermons were from his heart. Which was full of love and compassion. Memories of Jake are here forever.


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