Rev. Thomas P. O'Malley, S.J., a gifted, eloquent and scholarly priest who served as Dean of Boston College's College of Arts and Sciences, and as the president of two Jesuit universities, John Carroll University and Loyola Marymount University, died suddenly on Nov. 4, the victim of an apparent heart attack.
Fr. O'Malley, who 10 years ago had returned to his alma mater, Boston College, as a professor in the Arts and Sciences Honors Program, was 79.
"Though Tom O’Malley was a significant figure in the histories of three Jesuit universities - in Boston, Cleveland, and Los Angeles - I suspect that what the legion of friends he left in these places will remember most, beyond any of his administrative accomplishments, is his lightly worn erudition, his deep knowledge of scripture, his ability to light up any conversation with a good story, and of course his booming laugh," said Boston College's Vice President for University Mission and Ministry, Joseph A. Appleyard, S.J. "He was one of those rare people who make your life seem richer just by being part of it."
"He was a larger than life man and a larger than life Jesuit," said Rev. T. Frank Kennedy, S.J., rector of the Jesuit community at Boston College. "His breadth of knowledge was just breathtaking. He could converse in an intelligent way about so many different things. He was an incredible teacher and administrator."
A native of Milton, Mass., where he was born on March 1, 1930, Fr. O'Malley graduated from Boston College in 1951 with a degree in classics and added a master's degree from Fordham University before entering the Society of Jesus at the former Shadowbrook novitiate in Lenox, Mass. in 1953. He completed his theology studies at Leuven University in Belgium and was ordained in Brussels in 1961.
Following advanced theological courses and study for a doctorate in literature and theology of the early Christian period at Nijmegen University in the Netherlands, Fr. O'Malley returned to Boston College as chairman of the University's Department of Classical Languages in 1967. He later served as chairman of BC's Theology Department and was named Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1973.
In 1980, he was appointed president of John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, where over the next eight years, he lead a revitalization of that Jesuit institution, including the construction of new residence halls, a new student center and a new chapel on campus. He also oversaw the renovation of John Carroll's School of Business and added several endowed faculty chairs and increased funds for scholarships and campus ministry.
After a year of teaching in Nigeria, Fr. O'Malley served as rector of the Jesuit community at Fairfield University. In 1991, he was appointed the 13th president of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he presided over the development and expansion of LMU's Leavey Campus that includes residence halls and support facilities, and the construction or upgrade of numerous other campus buildings, including a student union, athletic center and Jesuit residence. He also directed a highly-successful fund-raising program that supported LMU's unprecedented growth.
Fr. O'Malley was known throughout his career for his eloquent homilies. "He was an incredible preacher," said Fr. Kennedy. "He always had a slant on the Scripture readings that was unique and helpful. I loved to listen to him and I know a lot of people loved to listen to him."
Fr. O'Malley, who had a booming bass singing voice, also performed with Boston College's University Chorale for many years, and helped the group arrange concert tours throughout Europe.
"He had such a remarkable ability to engage people at every level," said Dr. Mark O'Connor, a former student of Fr. O'Malley who is now the director of the BC Honors Program. "The beautiful thing that I will always remember about Tom is that he treated me with exactly the same courtesy, respect and engagement when I was just a student to the point where later I became – technically at least – his boss," O'Connor said. "Nothing in the nature of the way he engaged with people ever changed. It was hard for me to remember that this was the person I had once called 'Dean O'Malley' and later 'President O'Malley. And now I called him 'Tom' when we were speaking directly. "It meant so much to him to end his career teaching in the Boston College Arts and Sciences Honors Program. He made it clear that after being president of two Jesuit universities the only way that you could go up was to become a teacher again. To the end, we were learning from him."
Fr. O'Malley will be waked on Monday, Nov. 9 in St. Mary's Hall on the Boston College campus from 4-6 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. A funeral Mass will be celebrated in St. Ignatius Church in Chestnut Hill on Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 10 a.m. Burial will be in Campion Center Cemetery in Weston.
Fr. O'Malley is survived by two brothers, Austin J. O'Malley of Dedham and John F. O'Malley of Milton and a sister, Mary E. O'Malley of Milton.
Link (here) to the Boston College Chronicle