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Le Moyne Mourns Death of Former President William Reilly, S.J.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (For Immediate Release) … Former Le Moyne President William L. Reilly, S.J., the longest-serving president in College history, passed away on Thursday, Dec. 10 at Murray-Weigel Hall at Fordham University. He was 94.

“The entire Le Moyne community is saddened by the passing of Fr. Reilly,” said Le Moyne President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D. “He was both an inspiring person and an important figure in the history of the College. During his time as president, he initiated plans and programs that shape Le Moyne to this day. He went on to serve in several other national and international settings where his influence and wisdom were greatly beneficial to a host of different communities. We are very honored by our long association with Fr. Reilly.”

Born in 1916 in Jersey City, N.J., Fr. Reilly entered the novitiate in 1932 and was ordained in 1945. He attended Woodstock College in Maryland, where he received a B.A. in Philosophy, and also studied theology at Weston College in Weston, Mass., and received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University.

Father Reilly taught at Fordham University and Canisius College before becoming president of Le Moyne College in 1964. He served until the end of 1975, presiding over the College during an era of cultural change in America that included the civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam War protests, and the Watergate scandal. As president, Fr. Reilly spearheaded the construction of Foery and Harrison halls, as well as the academic building that would later be named for him. He expanded the size of the campus, increasing its grounds to over 140 acres.

After leaving Le Moyne, Fr. Reilly held several key posts within the Jesuit order, including associate vice president for academic affairs at Fordham University; retreat and pastoral minister at the Jesuit Novitiate in Benin City, Nigeria; and retreat minister in Cape Coast, Ghana. He took up residence at Fordham University in 1999. 

Fr. Reilly is remembered by the Le Moyne community as a vital and highly respected leader. David Casey, S.J., who was at Le Moyne during Fr. Reilly’s tenure, recalls his impressive demeanor. “He was as good as he looked,” Fr. Casey notes, “very intelligent and not just in ‘book learning.’” Indeed, College archivist William Bosch, S.J. has found that Fr. Reilly is overwhelmingly cited by faculty as the person who has most benefited Le Moyne throughout its history.

A memorial Mass for Fr. Reilly will take place on the Le Moyne campus in January 2010; final details on that will be forthcoming.


posted on: 12/10/2009