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Fr. J. Donald Monan, SJ, Boston College’s Longest-Serving President, Dies at 92

March 20, 2017 Jesuit Father J. Donald Monan, the 24th president of Boston College credited with saving the university from fiscal crisis and guiding it toward financial and academic success, died on March 18, 2017, at Campion Center in Weston, Massachusetts. He was 92.

Born in Blasdell, New York, in 1924 to a family with roots in Northern Ireland, Fr. Monan attended Canisius High School in Buffalo before entering the Society of Jesus. After concluding his philosophical studies, he taught at Saint Peter's College in Jersey City, New Jersey, studied theology at Woodstock College and was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1955. He earned his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Louvain, Belgium, and continued his postdoctoral research at the universities of Oxford, Paris and Munich.

In 1961, a year after joining the Le Moyne College philosophy department in Syracuse, New York, he became its chairman. Seven years later, he was appointed its academic dean and vice president before being named president of Boston College. 

He served longer than any Boston College president, and under his 24 years of leadership, Boston College grew from a financially strapped, predominantly male commuter college into a prosperous, coeducational and nationally renowned university. Applications for admission rose dramatically — from 7,000 in 1972 to more than 16,500 in 1996. At the time of his retirement as president in 1996, U.S. News & World Report ranked Boston College 40th among national universities in the U.S.

"I wouldn't have come to Boston College at all if I hadn't felt that it had great existing strength, despite the problems," Fr. Monan said in 1992.

In July 1996, after stepping down from the presidency, Fr. Monan became Boston College's first chancellor. Following that, he served as interim president and executive director of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities from 1996-97.

Fr. Monan's publications include “Moral Knowledge and its Methodology in Aristotle” and, as co-author, “A Prelude to Metaphysics.” He received more than a dozen honorary doctoral degrees from institutions ranging from Harvard University to the National University of Ireland. [Source: Boston College]

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