Submitted by Le Moyne College
The Le Moyne College community is saddened by the death of J. Donald J. Monan, SJ, who served in a variety of positions at Le Moyne College from 1960 to 1972 before beginning a 24-year tenure as president of Boston College. He passed away on Saturday, March 18, at the Campion Center in Weston, Mass.
“Father Monan was an extraordinary person, with a towering intellect and a soul to match,” said Le Moyne President Linda LeMura. “He played a key role in launching our fledgling, Jesuit College, which was founded only 14 years before his arrival, into the Jesuit gem it is today. His leadership at Boston College is widely credited with saving that institution and making it one of the leading Catholic institutions in the country. He regularly sent me notes of inspiration as president and I treasure his ongoing connection to Le Moyne. He has left a profound and lasting imprint on Jesuit education.”
A scholar of classical Greek and contemporary philosophy, his Le Moyne career began in 1960 when he was appointed an instructor in the philosophy department. A year later, he became department chair, a position he would hold for seven years. He also served as director of the Honors Program from 1962 to 1968, and as the College’s academic dean from 1968 to 1972. He received an honorary degree from Le Moyne (one of 13 he was awarded) and was also honored by the College at its inaugural Le Moyne in New York gala dinner in 2013.
In 1972, he was named president of Boston College, and would go on to serve 24 years in that role, still the longest presidential tenure at the institution. Arriving in fall of 1972, BC was more than $30 million in debt. He brought strong leadership to BC, making critical changes to the institution, including: restructuring the makeup of its Board of Trustees; hiring its first executive vice president to focus on fiscal and administrative matters; the acquisition in 1974 of Newton College of the Sacred Heart, an all-female college; and overseeing two capital campaigns that saw its endowment grow from $5.7 million in 1972 to nearly $600 million when he stepped down as president in 1996. Following his presidency, he continued at Boston College as chancellor, a position created expressly for him.
“Fr. Monan devoted more than four decades of his life to Boston College, playing a decisive role in its reorganization and increased recognition in American higher education,” said BC President William Leahy, SJ. “He has left a lasting legacy, and earned the gratitude and respect of the entire Boston College community for his leadership during his years as president and chancellor.”
He was an active participant on a variety of initiatives related to Catholic education, including serving as a delegate to the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education meetings with Pope John Paul II to prepare the 1990 papal document on Roman Catholic higher education and worked on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committee that implemented that document (“Ex Corde Ecclesiae”) to American Catholic colleges and universities. He also served as interim president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities in 1996-97.
James Donald Monan was born in Blasdell, N.Y., near Buffalo, on Dec. 31, 1924, the son of Edward Roland Monan and Mary (Ward) Monan. Father Monan attended Canisius High School, in Buffalo, where he played goalie on the school’s championship hockey team. He earned his bachelor’s degree and licentiate in philosophy at Woodstock College. After serving as an instructor at St. Peter’s College, in Jersey City, N.J., from 1949-52, he resumed his graduate studies, earning his licentiate in sacred theology at Woodstock, a doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Louvain, in Beligium, with postdoctoral work at Oxford University and the universities of Paris and Munich.