Joseph A. Sellinger

April 20, 1993

In mid-1971, a group of three men, each equipped with a walkie-talkie, appeared at the auction of the old Emerson Hotel in downtown Baltimore. Without announcing their affiliation, they quietly purchased (for a song) many of the hotel's beds, bureaus and chairs. The next day a truck hauled them to Loyola College, where they were used to equip dormitories.

The Emerson Hotel caper was one of many engineered by the Rev. Joseph A. Sellinger, Loyola's president since 1964. "You have to be something of an operator to be successful in this business," President Sellinger said later. He might have added that the job also required that he be something of a huckster, a super-persuader, fund-raiser, intellectual, leader of humankind and, above all, a politician.

"Father Joe" Sellinger was in some measure all of these, and in great measure Loyola College was the Rev. Joseph A. Sellinger. Sure, the school had been around since 1855, but it was Father Sellinger who took it co-ed in 1971 (in a "merger" with Mount St. Agnes College) and who transformed it from a sleepy school for Catholic day-hoppers to a moderately selective residential college with a solid academic reputation.

It was Joe Sellinger who tied Loyola's business school into the business of the city. It was he who established the constitutionality of state aid for Catholic colleges; he did it by marching all the way to the Supreme Court in 1976. You could even say it was Joe Sellinger who nudged Loyola into big-time college lacrosse, thus putting his school on another important map. And he accomplished all of this without abandoning Loyola's humane tradition of Jesuit learning (and without insisting that the school be named a "university").

His death yesterday at 72 leaves a void not only at Loyola's North Charles Street campus but in board rooms of public and private organizations all over Maryland. Loyola's 23rd president also was active in numerous charities and civic ventures. Three years ago at a Baltimore gala celebrating his 25th year as Loyola's president and 50th year as a Jesuit, Father Joe raised $1 million for a Jesuit retreat house in Maryland; such was the influence of this dean of Maryland college and university presidents. He will be sorely missed.

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