Former AVP, Trustee Dies

Former AVP, Trustee Dies

Fr. Fahey recalled as someone who `went where he was needed'

By Stephen Gawlik
Staff Writer

He may be remembered as a brilliant mathematician, a genius fund-raiser and an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox. But friends of the late Rev. Joseph R. Fahey, SJ, say the former Boston College academic vice president left behind, most of all, a legacy of admiration and respect at BC and the other Jesuit institutions to which he dedicated his life.

Rev. Joseph R. Fahey, SJ
Fr. Fahey, the provincial assistant for finance of the New England Province of the Society of Jesus and former president of Boston College High School, died Jan. 16 at Waltham-Deaconess Hospital. He was 65.

"He was an old-fashioned priest in so many ways," said Walsh Professor of Bioethics John Paris, SJ. "He believed he had to go where he was sent and work as hard as he could. And he did."

BC Public Affairs Director Jack Dunn, who worked for Fr. Fahey as director of development and public relations at BC High, said, "He gave up his dream to become a college president to come to BC High because he realized the importance of a Jesuit high school in student formation. In the process, he transformed the school through his leadership skills, his fund-raising prowess and his engaging personality. He was truly a remarkable person."

Fr. Fahey was called to serve at Boston College as the University began its rise to national prominence and took on a heightened reputation as an institution of academic excellence. A trustee from 1972-79 and 1981-82, Fr. Fahey was named academic vice president and dean of faculties in 1982.
"He never aspired to that position," said Fr. Paris. "Joe just went where he thought he was most needed."

To help sustain BC's growth, Fr. Fahey took on a leadership role in the Graduate Educational Policy Committee, an initiative to improve graduate education at BC. The committee's efforts helped lead to the creation of doctoral programs in the Connell School of Nursing and Carroll School of Management, joint professional degree programs in the Graduate School of Social Work and construction of Merkert Chemistry Center.

"BC, like most American universities, was badly shaken by the events of the 1960s and 1970s," said University Historian Thomas O'Connor. "He was able to restore much of the identity and character of the school."

But when he was named president of BC High in 1988, colleagues say, once again his dedication to the larger mission of the Jesuits came before any personal ambition.

"You could never imagine someone making such a move today," said Fr. Paris. "No one would go from a lofty position at a university to a high school, but he went where he thought he was needed."

During his 11-year administration, Fr. Fahey was credited with leading BC High through a significant period of growth that included the expansion of academic and athletic facilities and a sizeable increase in endowment. He worked closely with the Columbia Point Associates on projects beneficial to the community, including the opening of a commuter rail stop near the school in June, 2000.

Vice President and Assistant to the President William B. Neenan, SJ, who served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences under Fr. Fahey and later succeeded him as AVP, knew Fr. Fahey for more than 35 years. In his eulogy at the Jan. 19 funeral Mass for Fr. Fahey in St. Ignatius Church, Fr. Neenan recalled that his friend's integrity was evident in his direct manner of addressing others.

"As the Gospel tells us, 'Let your yea be yea and your nay nay.' For Joe 'yes' was a three letter word; his 'no' had only two. No need for exegesis or form criticism; no need for the deconstruction of a Joe Fahey text to capture some glimmer of an ephemeral meaning," said Fr. Neenan. "And whether the response was 'yes' or 'no' one's friendship with Joe was not in the least compromised."

A Mattapan native, Fr. Fahey graduated from BC High in 1953 and, following two years of study at Boston College, entered the Society of Jesus. He later returned to BC and earned his bachelor's degree in humanities in 1960 and a master's degree in philosophy in 1961. That year he also received a doctoral degree in philosophy from Weston College. He was ordained as a priest in 1968.

"He was brilliant with mathematics and had a photographic memory for facts and statistics," recalled Fr. Paris. "I think that's why he loved baseball and the Red Sox so much - because of all the numbers."

Fr. Fahey's talent for numbers was reflected in his doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1967, and the fellowships in economics he received from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and National Science Foundation.

Fr. Fahey taught economics at the College of the Holy Cross from 1968 to 1970 before accepting the position of dean of academics, a job he held until he took the academic vice president post at BC.

He is survived by his sister, Peggy Fahey Annett of Newtown, Conn.

Burial was at the Jesuit Cemetery at the Campion Center in Weston.


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