Regis University Santos Collection

Father Thomas J. Steele, S.J. (1933-2010)

Regis University Santos Collection

Fr. Steele holds a Santa Bárbara bulto by Horacio Valdez. (1992)

Historical Note

   Father Thomas J. Steele was a respected member of the Regis University Faculty and curator of the Regis University Santos Collection. Thomas Joseph Steele as born in St. Louis, MO on November 6th, 1933. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1951 and was ordained in 1964. He completed a PhD in 1968 on James Fenimore Cooper at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque before coming to Regis College, where he taught English for over 30 years. He collected and curated a teaching collection of Santos, religious fold art of the Southwest. 

   In 1977 Fr. Steele retired as Professor Emeritus. He then moved to the Immaculate Conception Church in Albuquerque, NM and continued pastoral work, writing, and research. He returned to the Jesuit House on the Regis University campus in Denver, CO and died on October 25th, 2010. 

   A prolific writer, Fr. Steele published over 35 books and 77 articles on the arts, history, and religions of the American Southwest. There are over 30 unpublished manuscripts within the Thomas J. Steele, S.J. Papers in the Regis University Archives and Special Collections. 

Click here for the text of the homily from the funeral liturgy for Fr. Steele, delivered by Fr. Michael Sheeran, S.J., October 30, 2010.

The Teaching Collection

"The Regis Collection of New Mexican Santos emphasizes instruction. It has more of a tilt toward sociology of religion than toward studio art or toward art history and art criticism. It is more concerned with the characteristic and ordinary than with the unique. And it welcomes pieces that for various sorts of reasons should not be displayed but which ought to be available to qualified scholars for serious research."

Fr. Steele in The Regis Santos: Thirty Years of Collecting 1966-1996, Albuquerque: LPD Press, 1997, p. 15.

Click here to view "The Regis Santos: A Teaching Collection at 50 Years," an article by Tom Riedel published in Jesuit Higher Education.