Former JCU president passes away

November 12th, 2009

Former John Carroll University president, The Rev. Thomas P. O’Malley, passed away on Wednesday Nov. 4, in Boston of an apparent heart attack.

O’Malley, the namesake of JCU’s O’Malley Center, led John Carroll from 1980 through 1988.

Jacqueline Schmidt, a JCU communications professor worked here throughout O’Malley’s time with the University. She remembers the late Jesuit as eloquent and enthusiastic.

“He had a zest, a marvelous etiquette about him,” said Schmidt. “He had a tremendous enthusiasm.”

O’Malley can be credited with boosting an emphasis on research at the University, making it a much stronger component in the requirements of those that worked here, according to Schmidt.

“He boosted Carroll’s coffers, campus and research,” according to his obituary in The Plain Dealer. “He resisted specialization and careerism. He created a master’s degree in humanities and talked about ‘making the world safe for philosophy majors.’”

O’Malley taught classics, but for some faculty members who were here, he will be remembered by projects he did while serving as president. For instance, he played William Jennings Bryan in the production of the play “Inherit the Wind.”

“I was always impressed with him – as president of the University – to take a role in a play,” Schmidt said. “And he was marvelous in it.”

Also, one of O’Malley’s famous stories was his Cadillac auction.

Pete Bernardo of the development department was hired during the O’Malley administration.

“I can’t remember if it was pink or yellow, but I remember it was a Cadillac convertible. He donated it for an auction,” said Bernardo.

The Rev. O’Malley’s Cadillac sat on the steps of the Atrium while as many as 2000 tickets were sold at a cost of $50. O’Malley donated all proceeds to the University, according to Bernardo.

“He was a great jolly man,” said Bernardo. “He loved the students. He would talk to students on [the quad].”

Schmidt also remembers O’Malley as very personable.

“He had an ability to make you feel comfortable,” she said. “He had such a way with words.”

Bernardo said that when O’Malley served Mass, his sermons were insightful and interesting.

“He was one of the most articulate people I ever met,” he said.

Fr. O’Malley earned his bachelor’s degree from Boston College and his master’s degree from Fordham University before entering the order in 1953. He was ordained in 1961.

During his time here, O’Malley raised $17.9 million for Carroll’s centennial.

Following his time at JCU, he spent two years teaching graduate students in Nigeria, followed by two years of teaching Jesuits at Fairfield University, the Jesuit institution in Connecticut.

O’Malley then became the president of Loyola Marymount in 1991, where he led for eight years, then returned to his home state and was a professor at Boston College.