Friends, students and colleagues gathered yesterday afternoon in Memorial Church at a service in memory of John E. Boswell, a Yale history professor.
Rev. Peter J. Gomes, the Plummer professor of Christian morals, praised Boswell's work in gay studies.
"He liberated the Bible and primitive Christianity," Gomes said. "Because of Boswell, the debate can never possibly be the same again."
Boswell, a specialist in medieval history, earned his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1975. The former chair of Yale's history department, Boswell died last December at age 47.
At the service, Rev. John Spencer, rector ofthe Jesuit community of Boston, recalled Boswellas a devoted friend.
"We equally shared the friendship of localpeople, most of whom are deceased," Spencer said."Jeb had a particular devotion to many Jesuitfriends."
Spencer said Boswell will be missed by the manystudents and colleagues he inspired over hislifetime.
"He did indeed teach us courage," Spencer said."He taught us how to be ourselves. He nevercondemned, never ridiculed, never looked down."
Nancy Seybold, a graduate student in medievalhistory at Yale, recalled Boswell as afather-figure to many graduate students.
"He was for all of us the single most importantperson in our academic lives," she said.
Gomes said Boswell was especially helpful tohim when Gomes decided to make public his"alternative lifestyle" in 1991.
"At a time of great public trauma for me hewrote me out of the blue a lovely letter ofsupport," Gomes said. "He gave me courage.