The Fordham University community mourns the death of Vincent T. O’Keefe, S.J., who served as the 27th president of the University. Father O’Keefe died on July 22 after a long illness. He was 92.
“Today Fordham lost one of its heroes,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the University. “Father O’Keefe was a man of vision, integrity, and humor: though his tenure as president was relatively short, Fordham would not be the University it is today without his influence. I know the Fordham community joins with me in holding Father O’Keefe’s family, friends, and colleagues in their thoughts and prayers.”
Father O’Keefe served as Fordham’s president from 1963 until 1965, when he participated in General Congregation XXXI of the Society of Jesus in Rome. At the Congregation he was elected Assistant ad providentiam to the newly-elected Superior General Pedro Arrupe, S.J.
In 1975, during General Congregation XXXII, Father O’Keefe became general assistant and general counselor to Father Arrupe. He later served in Father Arrupe’s place as vicar general during the superior general’s illness.
“He had a long career and he and Father Arrupe worked very closely together,” said former Fordham President Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., about Father O’Keefe’s 18 years of leadership in the General Governance of the Society.
“He was a very genial person and a great teller of stories, and had a great fondness for jokes,” Father O’Hare said. “He was always a great companion.”
(See the tribute to Father O’Keefe by James Martin, S.J., on the America Magazine blog.)
At the conclusion of General Congregation XXXIII, in 1983, Father O’Keefe returned to New York and became rector of Fordham’s Jesuit Community.
Father O’Keefe’s time as Fordham’s president, though brief, was significant. During his tenure, Father O’Keefe—after whom O’Keefe Commons is named—worked to incorporate women into the then all-male student body.
“At that time, only men were allowed at Fordham,” Father O’Keefe said in a 2009 interview with The Ram. “We wanted them to see that women were first-class citizens and had great minds, too.”
Prior to becoming president, Father O’Keefe served as academic vice president from 1960 until 1963.
Father O’Keefe entered the Society of Jesus in 1937, was ordained in 1950 in Louvain, Belgium and took his final vows in 1954 in Woodstock. After his formation, Father O’Keefe was professor of fundamental theology at the Woodstock theologate.
A wake was held Wednesday, July 25 at Murray-Weigel Hall in the Bronx and at the St. Ignatius Loyola Community in New York City. The funeral mass was held on Thursday, July 26 at St. Ignatius Loyola Church on Park Avenue.
Burial will take place at the Jesuit Cemetary in Aurlesville, NY.