Ong, Walter J.

Alternative names
Birth 1912-11-30
Death 2003-08-12

Biographical notes:

Epithet: Fr; SJ

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000357.0x0003b2

Known for his work in Renaissance literature, intellectual history, and the evolution of consciousness, Walter J. Ong, S.J., was a Jesuit, a scholar, and a teacher. An author of over 450 publications and the perennially popular Orality and Literacy, Fr. Ong was a Saint Louis University Professor Emeritus, the William E. Haren Professor Emeritus of English, and Professor Emeritus of Humanities in Psychiatry. His scholarship has influenced numerous fields and countless scholars. Walter Jackson Ong was born November 30, 1912, in Kansas City, Missouri. He completed undergraduate studies at Rockhurst College and worked in commercial positions for two years before entering the Society of Jesus in 1935. He then studied philosophy and theology at Saint Louis University, received his masters degree in English at Saint Louis University and his doctorate at Harvard University. Fr. Ong's scholarship was recognized around the world. His seminal work, Orality and Literacy, was translated into a dozen languages, both European and Asian. He gave lecture tours in Western Africa, Japan, and across Europe. Although they seldom honor teachers of English, the French Government named him Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques. Fr. Ong's advice was sought across several fields of expertise. He served on the editorial boards of a number of academic journals, was a member of various national committees for the Modern Language Association, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council on Education, and served as President of the Milton Society of America and the Modern Language Association. Fr. Ong's work was deeply inter-disciplinary, a fact recognized by Saint Louis University in 1984, when Ong was appointed University Professor, a unique placement directly under the University's central administration, reporting to no departmental chair or dean. His teaching and writing was difficult to classify by traditional lines of departmental demarcation. His students labeled his courses not English but "Onglish" to explain his vast treatment of topics in any class. A Jesuit Catholic priest, Walter J. Ong, SJ, was active in the ministry after ordination in 1946. For decades he celebrated daily Mass in St. Francis Xavier (College) Church in St. Louis and he was sought out by many Catholics in St. Louis in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He regularly directed others in the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Fr. Ong was active until the end of his life. His last article, "Digitization Ancient and Modern: Beginnings of Writing and Today's Computers," published in 1998 in Communication Research Trends, won the Media Ecology Association's Walter Benjamin Award for Outstanding Article in the Field of Media Ecology in 2000. Fr. Ong died on August 12, 2003.

From the description of Walter J. Ong manuscript collection, 1912-2008. (Saint Louis University - Main Campus). WorldCat record id: 761207555


Loading Relationships


Ark ID:


  • College teachers
  • Scholars


not available for this record


  • Missouri--Saint Louis (as recorded)