April 09, 2024


The following message was sent to The Catholic University of America community today.

It is with great sadness that I write to our Catholic University community about the death of Fr. William J. Byron, S.J., who served as the twelfth President of The Catholic University of America from 1982-1992. He was 96.

Father Byron was an exceptional leader in Catholic higher education, having served as president at both Catholic University and the University of Scranton (1975-1982). He also served as interim president at Loyola University New Orleans (2003-2004). A Jesuit, he was the first member of a religious order to lead Catholic University. 

Father Byron was known for being an inspiring intellectual who had an ability to connect powerfully with people and with ideas. Alumni remember him fondly for his close relationships with students, and for his leadership. He wrote more than 20 books and received more than 30 honorary degrees. 

Here at Catholic University his legacy is all around us. He completed the first $50 million fundraising campaign that led to expanding undergraduate housing with the construction of Centennial Village. He also led the fundraising for the Pryzbyla Center, the naming of the Benjamin T. Rome School, and the new building for the Columbus School of Law. He also tripled the endowment and led the 100-year anniversary celebration of Catholic University.

The main 238-seat dining area in Garvey Hall is named Byron Dining Room in honor of Fr. Byron. Van Smith, who was a University trustee during Fr. Byron’s tenure, together with his son, Victor Smith, J.D. 1996, chairman of our University’s Board of Trustees, and his daughter, Susan Smith Newell, J.D. 1993, M.A. 1994, the Columbus School of Law's school's assistant dean for admissions and dean of students for first-year students, donated to the dining commons project to honor Father Byron’s important role in the history of Catholic University.

William Byron was an Army paratrooper before he attended St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. He was ordained a priest of the Society of Jesus in 1961. Father Byron earned a doctorate in economics from the University of Maryland, two theology degrees from Woodstock College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s in economics from Saint Louis University.

He was the 1999 recipient of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities’ Theodore M. Hesburgh Award, and the Council of Independent Colleges’ Academic Leadership Award. In his last years he served as a professor of Business and Society at St. Joseph’s University.

Information about funeral services and a campus memorial is forthcoming.

Please join me in praying for the repose of the soul of Fr. William J. Byron, S.J. May he rest in peace.


Peter Kilpatrick