Fordham University mourns the passing of William B. Neenan, S.J., a six-year member of the Board of Trustees in the 1980s and a beloved administrator at Boston College for more than three decades.
Father Neenan died June 25 at Roberts House, one of Boston College’s Jesuit residences, at the age of 85. He served on Fordham’s Board of Trustees from 1984 to 1990, impressing Fordham’s president at the time with his expertise in university management.
“He was one of the most outstanding Jesuit administrators, university administrators, that I had the privilege of meeting and knowing,” said Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., president emeritus of Fordham, who had come to know Father Neenan while serving as a Boston College trustee. “He was, in many ways, a role model to the rest of us in learning how to administer a university, and at the same time administer it well, (while) always taking into account the human dimension of different decisions that have to be made.”
“He was a very good adviser, but also a good friend,” said Father O’Hare, noting Father Neenan’s ability “to make friends with people, to get along.”
Father Neenan shared his time and talents widely, serving as a trustee not only for Fordham but also for Loyola University of Chicago and for a few Boston-area Catholic schools. He was director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities from 1988 to 1994, and director of Americamagazine from 1990 to 1991.
A native of Sioux City, Iowa, Father Neenan began his Jesuit formation in 1948 in Florissant, Missouri, and was ordained a priest in 1961 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, according to the New England Province of Jesuits. He earned a doctorate from the University of Michigan and taught economics and social work there from 1967 until 1979, when he began his 35-year career with Boston College.
Initially a visiting scholar in economics, he served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1980 to 1987 and as academic vice president and dean of faculties from 1987 until 1998, according to the Boston College Office of News and Public Affairs. For the past 16 years he served as vice president and special assistant to the president of Boston College.
Father Neenan was a well-known campus presence and sought-after speaker at university events. His name was given to one of the university’s societies for benefactors, and to one of its endowed chairs. He wrote prolifically on urban economics, public health, taxation, and other topics, and every year released a widely anticipated “recommended reading” list to the campus community.
“Father Neenan was such a presence on our campus and was a tremendous Jesuit priest,” said William P. Leahy, S.J., president of Boston College, in a statement. “We will all miss him greatly.”
He is survived by his brother, Peter Neenan, of Malta, New York, and his sister, Mary Josephine Warnke, of Plain, Wisconsin.