Father Joe Sellinger

April 21, 1993

At the beginning of this school term -- his 28th year as president of Loyola College -- the Rev. Joseph A. Sellinger addressed the Loyola community, reminding students, faculty and staff alike that the mission and identity of the college is something that must be constantly renewed and carefully tended. Driven toward excellence, dynamic and innovative, concerned about the moral and personal development of students, Loyola, he told them, should always strive to embody the best of a Catholic, Jesuit, liberal arts education.

Father Joe, as he was known on campus and off, epitomized those values as well as anybody. He also represented the best of the modern college president. He could wheel and deal, but he remained at heart a teacher devoted to his calling and a priest dedicated to his faith. With his death Monday at the age of 72, Loyola College lost a president who reshaped the school and pointed it toward a vastly brightened future.

Father Joe's fund-raising abilities were legendary, even earning him a description from some quarters as the "Lee Iacocca of higher education" -- back when that was the ultimate compliment from results-oriented executives. His influence and wise counsel were as valued outside the college as on campus, and his death leaves a significant void in the larger community.

Father Joe was not only the dean of Maryland college and university presidents, but also one of the longest-serving presidents in the country -- in an era when few presidents last a decade. His relationships with corporate leaders worked to Loyola's benefit and helped the school to prosper.

When Father Joe became president of Loyola in 1964, the college was known largely as a sleepy commuter school for men. He left it a vastly improved coeducational college, combining a strong commitment to the core of the liberal arts with professional training. There were personal transformations as well. His time as president encompassed great changes in the Roman Catholic Church and in society at large, some of which he admitted were difficult for him. But whether the change was from Latin to English in the Mass or a new style of assertiveness in students who sometimes seemed to disdain authority, Father Joe always rose to the challenge. He leaves a rich legacy.

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