Amherst Magazine

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George L. Cadigan ’33

George L. Cadigan ’33

Emeritus college minister The Right Rev. George L. Cadigan ’33 died on Wednesday, Dec. 14, at his home in Topsham, Maine. He was 95 years old.

A leading religious figure at Amherst and nationally, Cadigan played a key role in the life of the college as an alumnus, trustee and college minister. After graduating cum laude in 1933, he studied theology at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Mass., and at Cambridge University. Ordained in 1935, he began his ministry at Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst and served as assistant chaplain at Amherst College from 1936 to 1937. He served parishes in Brunswick, Maine, Salem, Mass. and Rochester, N.Y. before his 1959 election as the seventh Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, a position he held until he returned to Amherst in 1975. He rejoined the college staff two years later, and served as minister at the college until his retirement in 1984.

As bishop, Cadigan was known for his leadership in the peace, social justice and civil rights movements. He worked with Martin Luther King Jr. on issues related to race, fair housing and equal employment, and spoke out against the Vietnam War. Within the church, he worked to give laity a greater voice in decision making and was active in the ecumenical movement. Several years before it became a national issue, he went on record supporting the ordination of women to the Episcopal priesthood.

Cadigan served on the college’s Board of Trustees from 1965 to 1971 and in 1988 received Amherst’s Medal for Eminent Service. In a 1978 interview with the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, he said that what amazed him about his work at Amherst was “not at what the students tell me, but that they tell me.

“My chief ministry,” he added, “lies in the realm of shepherding or pastoring. Like the rest of us, [Amherst students] are very human and run the gamut of life’s offerings, such as loneliness, bereavement, tensions, guilt and temptations…. Most of all, I try to be their friend, and in all this I am much more helped than helping. So my life is full, but it is a relaxed fullness, and I feel closer to almighty God than ever.”

After retiring from Amherst, Cadigan moved to the Topsham-Brunswick area of Maine. He continued to preach in various churches, and he led a grief counseling group. Throughout his life, Cadigan enjoyed fishing, canoeing, tennis, hiking and reading, especially about Abraham Lincoln.

In 2000, the college dedicated the Cadigan Center for Religious Life, which houses the offices of the college’s five religious advisers, as well as student meeting space and a kosher/Halal kitchen. Student religious groups use the center for meetings and fellowship: weekly Jewish Sabbath gatherings, coffeehouses with poetry and music, Bible study, faculty lectures and Zen meditation, among other activities.

The Cadigan family has requested that memorial tributes be directed to the George L. Cadigan ’33 Chaplaincy Fund at Amherst, established in 1986 by alumni and friends. Income from this endowed fund supports religious activities and counseling.

An on-campus memorial service is being planned in conjunction with Reunion Weekend in June. For more information, please call (413) 542-2313 or (413) 542-8149.

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