Santa Clara University School of Law has lost a beloved member of the community, Professor Emeritus Paul Goda, SJ, who died January 29 at the infirmary at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos.

The Santa Clara Law community joins together with Fr. Goda’s family, Mr. and Mrs. Alex Goda, to mourn and honor Fr. Goda. We are deeply grateful for his long legacy of service at Santa Clara and his generous life of ministry. 

Fr. Goda came to Santa Clara in 1969 as a law professor, and he was a passionate member of the Law School for the next 40 years. “An inspiring teacher devoted to the University and his profession, he relished teaching law in all its detail, particularly in contracts, and sharing his expertise with generations of students,” wrote SCU President Kevin O’Brien in a message to the SCU community. “He brought good humor and a welcoming presence in all his interactions. Always ready to minister to his beloved Law School, he performed marriages and baptisms for many alumni and was ubiquitous at events and alumni gatherings.”

Fr. Goda was twice president of the Faculty Senate at Santa Clara University. He served twelve years on the board of trustees at Santa Clara University, and nine years on the board of trustees at the University of San Francisco. Following his retirement, Fr. Goda has remained active in Law School events as well as engaged with Law Alumni for family gatherings, both happy and sad, for the past ten years.

In August 2019, Santa Clara Law dedicated the Goda Gardens, in honor of Fr. Goda. The Gardens line the perimeter of Santa Clara Law’s new home – Charney Hall – and face the site of the Third Mission Church on campus. The area is lush with native plants as well as roses and lilies and offers tranquil spaces to study and reflect, or simply, to take a break from the pressures of law school life. When offering grace and thanks at Mass and at other school gatherings, Fr. Goda inspired many to take a moment and be grateful, therefore, this place of stillness and beauty is fitting to name after him. It has already become a popular spot for law students to study or enjoy lunch together.

At the garden dedication, which Fr. Goda was able to attend, Interim Dean Anna Han acknowledged that Fr. Goda was a longtime source of wisdom for the community. “As every faculty here will know, whenever we have a question on faculty governance, resolutions passed in days long ago, the answer is always ‘Ask Paul,’” she said. “During all this time, as well as since then, Father Goda has been available for so many alumni and friends, celebrating life milestones with many of you. He continues to be a source of comfort, in good times and in bad.”

Santa Clara Law Professor Emeritus Kenneth Manaster also spoke at the dedication, noting the connection to Fr. Goda and the gardening spirit. “When I think of all that Paul does for us–for his faculty and staff colleagues in the Law School, his brothers in the Jesuit Community, and above all his students–I think of how well he has tended us and helped us grow,” said Manaster. “For all of us, then and now, he plants seeds of caring, thoughtfulness, and generosity, and he sticks with us for months and years to help us flourish. I think that’s what a good gardener does.”

Fr. Goda also spoke at the dedication, and the emotional words he shared were balanced with his legendary humor when he referenced his “black thumb” history and the irony of having a garden named for him. “The flowers that you named after me are a great symbol of that community, to be watched, to be nurtured, and to give hope,” he said. “Thank you very, very much. I am honored.”

Notes of Condolence may be sent to Fr. Goda’s family, Mr. and Mrs. Alex Goda, care of Santa Clara University School of Law, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053

Donations in honor of Fr. Goda can be made to the Goda Gardens or to the Law Faculty and Staff Scholarship Fund.

All are invited to celebrate Fr. Goda’s life at the following services:

5:00 pm, Tuesday, February 11
Mission Santa Clara
500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95050

Mass of Christian Burial
7:00 pm Tuesday, February 11
Mission Santa Clara

Reception to follow at Charney Hall, Santa Clara University

Below is a selection of photos of Father Goda from over the years.