Biographies

Father George N. Putnam, MM

Born: February 18, 1909
Ordained: June 11, 1944
Died: July 16, 1991

Father George N. Putnam died on July 16, 1991 in Hong Kong. He was 82 years old and a Maryknoll priest for 47 years.

George Nelson Augustine Putnam was born on February 18, 1909 in New York City, son of George Edward and Grace Nelson. He had one brother, Thomas, of Scarsdale, NY.

After secondary education in N.Y. he worked for Charles Pfizer Co. and completed his undergraduate studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with a Ph. D. (cum laude) in Sociology. During the depression years he was out of work for several periods and in one such period he volunteered at the Catholic Worker in New York. He entered Maryknoll in 1937 and was ordained in June of 1944. His first assignment was to do graduate studies at St. Louis University where he earned an M.A. Degree in Sociology in 1945. Prior to his first mission assignment to Kweilin he studied Mandarin at the University of California. From 1946-1951 he undertook various commitments in pastoral work and specialized in work with the students at Kwangsi U. At Lingnan U. he Canton he served as Assistant Professor of Sociology and as chaplain to the Catholic students, studying also at the local Y.M.C.A.

During 1951-1954 George did further studies at the Catholic University in Washington, this time being awarded a Ph.D. in Sociology with a dissertation entitled: “The Status Significance of an Isolated Urban Dialect.” For the next ten years he was on the Faculty at Glen Ellyn. He served 2 terms with that faculty as Vice-Rector. He was popular with the students he supervised in his “unit” when the new dormitory was opened there. After a brief assignment to the Overseas Student Ctr. in NYC he was appointed in 1965 as Professor of Sociology at Kipalapala in Tanzania. Again, in 1968-1969 he returned to Glen Ellyn to resume teaching.

Following his reassignment to Tanzania Fr. Putnam taught Sociology at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Nairobi and then returned to Kipalapala for another 3-year stint as professor of Sociology until 1975. From 1976 to 79 he served as Office Manager and English secretary to Bishop Castor Sekwa. Then he was Regional Procurator in Dar es Salaam for 3 years.

George never lost his love for China and his desire to return there. As U.S./China foreign relations thawed he took note and began to encourage more communication with the Chinese medical team working at the Shinyanga Government Hospital. As a result they were present at George’s farewell when he left Shinyanga.

Fr. Putnam received an assignment to Hong Kong in 1987 and for the next several years taught on the mainland, including Wunan University of Technology.

Wake service was held on July 19 in Hong Kong and burial at St. Michael’s Cemetery. At New York a Memorial Mass was offered with Fr. Joseph Hahn as Principal Celebrant and Fr. Lawrence Lewis as Homilist.