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Rev. William C. McInnes, SJ

Obituary: Long Academic Career Took McInnes Back to BC

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By Reid Oslin | Chronicle Staff
Published: December 17, 2009
Rev. William C. McInnes, SJ, a beloved and highly-respected Jesuit priest and educator who served as president of Fairfield University,
the University of San Francisco and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities as well as faculty member, academic dean and alumni chaplain at Boston College, died at Campion Center in Weston on Dec. 8 after a long illness.

A funeral Mass was celebrated Tuesday at St. Ignatius Church for Fr. McInnes, who was 86 and had been a Jesuit priest for 52 years.

Fr. McInnes had already enjoyed a long, distinguished career in academia when he returned to Boston College — where he had started nearly four decades before — in 1998. In his second stint at BC, he was an adjunct professor in the Carroll School of Management, faculty advisor to the Alpha Sigma Nu Jesuit Honor Society, and a popular chaplain to members of the University’s growing Alumni Association.

During a decade in this position, Fr. McInnes attended scores of Boston College events and befriended and counseled countless BC students and graduates.

“He was indefatigable,” said Canisius Professor T. Frank Kennedy, SJ, rector of the Jesuit community at Boston College. “He was an incredibly active and apostolic man, who was always involved with people.

“Fr. McInnes came back to Boston College to ‘retire,’ but he wound up working with our alumni, teaching a course in ethics and doing many other things. Even last summer when he became ill, he was committed to presiding at 12 or 14 weddings. That was Bill. His life was marked by tremendous generosity and apostolic work.”

Fr. McInnes was born in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood in 1923 and grew up in Quincy. He entered Boston College in 1940 to study business, but left the University in 1942 to enlist in the US Army Air Force, where he served as a meteorology officer in Africa, India and China during World War II. When he returned to Boston, Fr. McInnes had decided to enter St. John’s Seminary to study for the priesthood, but after an extended conversation with one of his BC teachers, Rev. John Drummey, SJ, he elected instead to join the Society of Jesus, where he became one of the first Jesuit educators to specialize in business administration.

After completing his philosophy studies at Weston College, Fr. McInnes earned a doctoral degree in business administration from New York University. Following his ordination in 1957 and advanced theological studies, he joined the faculty at Boston College’s College of Business Administration (now the Carroll School of Management) in 1959 and in 1964 was appointed assistant dean of the business school.

In 1964, Fr. McInnes became president of Fairfield University and in 1972 was named president of the University of San Francisco – holding the presidency of both schools simultaneously for four months during the fall semester of 1972.

At Fairfield, he led a successful effort that enabled church-related colleges to receive federal funds for educational purposes, and at San Francisco he launched innovative community outreach and involvement programs that helped to save the financially-strapped Jesuit college.

Fr. McInnes served at San Francisco until 1977 when he was named to head AJCU in Washington, DC.

In 1990, Fr. McInnes became parochial vicar of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Storrs, Conn., where he served as campus minister to the University of Connecticut. He was the first Jesuit priest to hold that assignment.

In recent years, Fr. McInnes was   active in a successful campaign to build a Veterans’ Memorial on the Boston College campus. The 70-foot long stone memorial to BC’s war dead was formally dedicated on Nov. 11.

“For so many years, Fr. McInnes has been the heart and soul of not just the Alumni Association, but of so many facets of Boston College,” said Boston College Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations John Feudo.  “His presence was felt in all corners of the campus, and his spirit will be with us well into the future.  His passion and compassion, energy and vitality, are traits that will endure forever,” Feudo said.

Burial was at Campion Center Cemetery. Fr. McInnes is survived by several nieces and nephews.