William J. Fulco, S.J.
Message from the President
Nov. 30, 2021
Dear LMU Community:
I am saddened to share that the Rev. William J. Fulco, S.J., a Jesuit priest and the retired National Endowment for the Humanities Chair of Ancient Mediterranean Studies, passed away on Nov. 28, 2021, of a longtime illness at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California. He was 85 years old.
Father Fulco joined LMU in August 1998, and through his retirement in 2019, he established himself as a scholar, teacher, curator, mentor, and raconteur. A popular teacher, Father Fulco’s courses covered an impressive range of topics: “God and the World of Ancient Israel”; ancient religions; music culture in ancient Palestine; ancient Near Eastern languages; Near Eastern archaeology; biblical archaeology and Old Testament studies; and classical numismatics. He traveled the world exploring those subjects, and he made archeological travel available for LMU students, annually sponsoring digs across the globe through his NEH funding. In 2007, LMU recognized him with the President’s Fritz B. Burns Distinguished Teaching Award, one of the highest honors bestowed on faculty by the university.
Father Fulco founded LMU Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts’ Archaeology Center to study and display the collected and preserved museum-quality artifacts he acquired during his travels. His scholarship in the Aramaic language led him to be the advisor for the film “The Passion of the Christ.” He also advised on the films “The Nativity Story” (2006) and “Jesus VR: The Story of Christ” (2016), and the television documentary series “Ancient Aliens” (2010-13). Father Fulco worked extensively with the Pontifical Biblical Institute Museum in Jerusalem and made a transformative impact through his work with Alcoholics Anonymous, speaking at retreats across the United States.
He was the classic Jesuit academic, equally at home on an archeological dig as in the classroom. Father Fulco embraced, with his characteristic animated joy, whatever project lay in front of him. He was a devoted member of LMU’s Jesuit Community, a highly engaged faculty advisor, and he remained connected with his former students over the years, always present to celebrate sacraments and offer advice. His contributions and impact inspired the formation of the Father Fulco Balanced Living Scholarship, reflecting his work over the years with Sigma Phi Epsilon and benefiting first-year students.
A native Angeleno, Father Fulco was born in the Leimert Park area, graduated from Loyola High School and joined the Society of Jesus in 1954. He was ordained in 1966. Father Fulco earned his Ph.D. in Near Eastern languages and literatures from Yale University. He earned his B.A. at Santa Clara University and his M.A. at Gonzaga University. He also held a Licentiate of Sacred Theology and Master of Sacred Theology from the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley, California.
Please keep Bill, his family, colleagues, fellow Jesuits, students, and his many friends in your prayers.
Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D.