Charles J. Beirne, S.J., visiting professor of education at the Graduate School of Education (GSE), died on July 14, at Murray-Weigel Hall after a prolonged illness. He was 71.
Father Beirne taught in the Center for Catholic School Leadership and Faith-Based Education at GSE.
“Father Beirne will be sorely missed not just by his family, friends and brother Jesuits, but by everyone who cares about Catholic education,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham. “The mere list of posts he held, impressive as they are, do not do justice to his legacy, nor to his ability to inspire colleagues and transform institutions. He taught us by example and leaves us in his debt.”
Father Beirne served as president of LeMoyne College from 2000 to 2007, where he spearheaded a comprehensive five-year strategic plan and worked toward the development of an architectural master plan for the campus. He left LeMoyne in 2007 to serve as a consultant on Jesuit higher education in Africa.
“Father Beirne’s indomitable spirit and good will in the face of grave illness are testaments to his faith and great character. He truly lived a life in service to others, especially to those most in need. We were blessed by his presence on our faculty,” said James J. Hennessy, Ph.D., dean of GSE.
Father Beirne earned his Ph. D. from the University of Chicago and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from Fordham College at Rose Hill and the Graduate School of Arts and Science, respectively. He also earned master’s and licentiate degrees from Woodstock College in Maryland. He was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1969.
His research interests included higher education in the developing world, Jesuit secondary and higher education and social change.
Father Beirne went to Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in San Salvador following the brutal assassination of six Jesuits there, along with their housekeeper and her daughter in 1989 by members of the Salvadoran army. He served as academic vice president there from 1989 to 1993.
His other academic and teaching appointments included: academic vice president of Universidad Rafael Landivar in Guatemala and Santa Clara University in California; former principal of Colegio San Ignacio, Puerto Rico, and Regis High School in New York City; and associate dean of the School of Business at Georgetown University.
According to an article in The Post-Standard of Syracuse, N.Y., Beirne’s first posting to a Spanish-speaking nation was a fluke. Longtime friend and LeMoyne alumnus Chaplain Father David Casey, recalled “there was another Jesuit named Charles Burns, who was supposed to be sent to Puerto Rico while Beirne was heading back to his native Jersey City, N.J.
“But through some mix up it was announced that Beirne was going and a news story appeared announcing his appointment. So Beirne went to the Caribbean. ‘A press release sent him to Puerto Rico instead of Jersey City,’ Casey said. ‘It was a slip of fate or God’s sense of humor.’”
A New Jersey native, Father Beirne is survived by two sisters, Maureen of Massachusetts and Eileen of Kentucky, a brother, Thomas, of New Jersey, and several nieces and nephews.
Services for Father Beirne are as follows:
Friday, July 23
O’Keefe Commons, O’Hare Hall, Rose Hill campus
7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Mass of Resurrection
Saturday, July 24
University Church, Rose Hill campus