Category: Fall 2023, Georgetown Magazine

Title:Lives Well Lived — Fall 2023

Author: Patti North
Date Published: October 4, 2023

Lives Well Lived honors a few alumni who have recently passed away. We share with you these portraits of alumni who have made an indelible impact living day to day as people for others. Memories collected by Patti North.

You can find a more complete list at

Ruth McDonough Fitzpatrick

Ruth McDonough Fitzpatrick

Ruth Fitzpatrick (C’75), activist for the ordination of women priests in the Catholic Church, passed away June 15 at age 90.

Growing up in an extended Irish-Catholic family that contained a nun and a priest, Ruth felt called to the priesthood as a teenager. When she learned that she would be denied that vocation because of her gender, Ruth spent most of her career leading the national movement advocating for equal treatment of women and men in the Church, including the priesthood.

In 1955, she married John R. Fitzpatrick Jr., a DC native and infantryman who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. When he was stationed in Naples, Italy, Ruth led tours of the Vatican for military families. The couple returned to the DC-area, settling in Fairfax, Virginia, and had three children, John, Michael (C’81), and P. Kelly. After John’s retirement from the Army, he started law school at Catholic University and Ruth enrolled in the Georgetown College of Arts and Sciences.

In choosing Georgetown, Ruth followed in the footsteps of her father, uncles, and great-uncle Vincent S. McDonough, S.J. (“Father Mac”) who was Georgetown’s director of Athletics, Prefect of Discipline, secretary of the Board of Directors, member of the Board of Regents, and chairman of extracurricular activities from 1916 to 1928.

“Our mom absolutely loved Georgetown,” her son Michael (now U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador) recalled. “To her it meant: pursuit of knowledge; faith; and putting both that knowledge and one’s faith into action with service to the Church and its community. And given the university’s international dimensions and her own life on multiple continents, she saw the Church and Georgetown as having global reach, and responsibility. She was perhaps never happier than her years studying, and then working, at the Hilltop.”

She graduated in 1975 with a degree in theology and then worked on campus for a time, before earning her Master’s in Divinity from Washington Theological Union in 1979. When the Women’s Ordination Conference was established, Ruth was hired as national coordinator, serving 1977–1978 and again 1985–1995, “Our hopes were high,” she told the author Linda Brandi Cateura for her book Catholics USA: Makers of a Modern Church (1989). “At the time we honestly thought women would be ordained within five years.” The group now has more than 3000 dues-paying members.

“She made a conscious decision to stay and do the hard work to push the Church forward on full equality for women,” her son John said. “She loved the church and wanted to see it do better by women.” In addition to her children, Ruth is survived by a sister and six grandchildren.

Joseph E. Jeffs

Joseph E. Jeffs

Joseph E. Jeffs (C’49), Georgetown University’s Librarian from 1960 to 1990, passed away on April 22.

He was born July 1, 1924, in Philadelphia. After serving with the US Army Air Corps in Europe during World War II, he earned a B.S. from Georgetown in 1949 and soon became assistant librarian at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library. With a master’s of science in library science from Catholic University, he joined the staff at Georgetown University Library in 1954, where he was promoted to University Librarian in 1960.

As University Librarian, he oversaw the construction of Lauinger, helped to modernize the cataloging system, and established the Special Collections and Archives Division. He also worked tirelessly to enhance the library’s collections, and in 1983, he accepted the library’s one millionth volume.

He was also a defender of human rights and peace, joining the 1963 March on Washington, serving as chair of Rockville, Maryland’s Human Rights Commission in 1966, and working for years advocating for local anti-discrimination laws. In 1989, he received the John Carroll Award from the Georgetown University Alumni Association.

Contributions in honor of Joe Jeffs can be made to the Joseph and Jeannine Jeffs Book Endowment Fund at the Georgetown University Library.

Marcia G. Cooke

Marcia G. Cooke

Marcia G. Cooke (SFS’75), former federal judge and the first Black and first female president of the Georgetown Alumni Association, passed away on January 27 of cancer.

After graduating from the School of Foreign Service and receiving her law degree from Wayne State University, she began her career as staff attorney for Neighborhood Legal Services in Michigan. She worked as director of professional development training for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami in 1992 and later became executive assistant U.S. Attorney. Then-Governor Jeb Bush appointed her inspector general for Florida, and in 2004 she became a federal judge in Miami. She was the first female Black federal judge in Florida.

Winner of the 2000 John Carroll Award, Judge Cooke served on Georgetown’s Board of Governors, the Board of Regents, and Board of Directors. She was a founding member of the Georgetown University African American Advisory Board, and from 1996 to 1998, she served as president of the Georgetown University Alumni Association, the first woman to hold that role.

As her friend Conan Louis (SLL’73, M’78, L’86) recalled, “Marcia’s intellect was exceeded only by her sense of humor. Most of all, Marcia was a fiercely loyal and thoughtful friend you could always count on to help you contextualize life’s greatest challenges, insisting all along the way that nothing is serious enough to permit it to steal your life’s joy.”

Francis X. Van Houten, M.D.

Francis X. Van Houten, M.D.

Francis X. (Rusty) Van Houten (M’65) passed away April 30 in Concord, Massachusetts, at the age of 83. Adopted at birth, Rusty was abandoned by his adoptive father and later orphaned when his adoptive mother died after battling cancer. A neighbor family took him in while he completed his studies on scholarship at Archbishop Stepinac High School, a roundtrip commute of 60 miles by bus.

He graduated with honors and attended College of the Holy Cross, again on scholarship, where he met his wife of 55 years, Marjorie. He graduated cum laude with a degree in pre-med and went on to enter Georgetown School of Medicine, again on scholarship. His son Paul recalled “Rusty switched to pre-med from engineering after his mother passed away from cancer. He was always grateful to Georgetown for the opportunity to pursue his passion and lead a purpose-driven life.”

After graduating in 1965, he began his internship at the University of Pittsburgh, where he developed an interest in radiology. He joined the Navy during the Vietnam era and served on a destroyer and in a MASH unit. Rusty began his residency in internal medicine at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, before pursuing radiology in private practice, with a career that spanned 30 years.

He was an outstanding husband and father to his sons Paul (C’88, L’92) and Scott, son-in-law Tom Flynn, daughter-in-law Christina (C’89), and four grandchildren. The family welcomes memorial donations to the Van Houten Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Georgetown School of Medicine.

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