Rev. Patrick F. Dealy, SJ, Class of 1846
President (Rector), Fordham Prep & University (1882-5)
Prep Teacher (1852-3)
First Alumnus to enter the Society of Jesus
First Alumnus to serve as Prep & University President
Rev. Patrick Francis Dealy, SJ was born on April
7, 1827 in Rathkeale, County Limerick, Ireland. Little is known of Paddy’s early life, save that he immigrated to the United States at a very young age with his parents and that he received his earliest education at New York City public schools.
He began at St. John’s College in 1843, a student in the Grammar Department, which would soon be known as Second Division, or as it is called today, Fordham Preparatory School. In The History of St John’s College — published in 1891 to commemorate Fordham’s Golden Jubilee — some of Dealy’s early Rose Hill recollections are recorded. Of the small student library on the second floor of what is today the Administration Building he recounts “It was here that I made my first speech in 1843, on the occasion of a reception given byBishop Hughes to several bishops and other prelates.”
Patrick Dealy completed what today would be the high school portion of his St. John’s education in 1846, making him a member of what is considered the Prep’s first graduating class, together with James Carolin, Patrick Gaynor, Felix Kennedy, James Moran, William Reilly and Alejandro Troncozo. He entered the Society of Jesus on All Hallows Eve of that year at just 17 years of age. He would be the first Fordham student to become a Jesuit, although ironically, he had not had any Jesuits as teachers during his Prep days. Members of the Society would only begin arriving at Rose Hill as Dealy himself was graduating.
Dealy served his novitiate at the newly forming Jesuit community at Fordham and continued his studies at St. Mary’s in Montreal before returning to Bronx. As a scholastic, Dealy spent 1852 and 1853 teaching Greek and Latin on the Prep level.
After his ordination, Father was assigned to Fordham to teach belles-lettres, or literature, on the college level, and would do so, on and off, for decades. Dealy also taught rhetoric at the College of St. Francis Xavier and served at the parish church on West Sixteenth Street. There he founded and served as spiritual director of the Xavier Union, later known as the Catholic Club of New York, an influential lay group of the era. In his day, Fr. Dealy was regarded as the most prominent Jesuit in New York. In fact, fellow Hall of Honor inductee and archbishop of New York, John Cardinal McCloskey would ask Dealy to be his confessor.
In 1882, Father Dealy was appointed 13th Rector, or President, of St. John’s College, or in other words, of Fordham Prep and Fordham University. Interestingly, by the University’s reckoning, he was only 12th in line — the Prep has long included the 1865 four-month presidency of Rev. Peter Tissot, SJ in the succession; the University does not. So not only was Patrick Dealy the first Prep student to become a Jesuit, but he was also the first graduate of the school to serve as its president.
His presidency was dynamic. He is credited with modernizing Fordham, taking it from the older French traditions to a more modern model as the 20th century approached. This was a time when Catholic colleges throughout the country, many based on the European concept of a single continuous program from the middle school through to masters level, were beginning to feel the pressure to consider the American model with its distinctions between high school, college and professional schools. As Taaffe notes in his History of St. John’s College, Dealy’s tenure at Fordham coincided with “the beginning of a new era in the history of Fordham College: a transition from the conservative opinions of the Jesuits of the old French school to the broader and more liberal ideas which have begun to spread as the older generation of fathers is passing away.”
Among the first changes Father Rector made was to restore the student print publications which had not been published in two decades, and so, the Fordham College Monthly began publication in 1882. Baseball was the most widely played sport on campus at the time, but Dealy introduced football in response to his sense of a growing popularity among the boys. Macadam roads were first put down during his tenure and he did much to improve the overall appearance of Rose Hill — trees still stand on campus that were planted at Dealy’s behest. He began several construction projects, including the refurbishment of St. John’s Hall, one of the dorms making up the University’s Queen’s Court complex today, as well as the laying of the foundation of the Science Building, today known as Thébaud Hall. By the end of Dealy’s presidency, St John’s College could boast an updated curriculum, and an atmosphere in which extracurricular clubs and programs could flourish — not only student journalism and football, but dancing, fencing,boxing and horsemanship.
One last innovation of Dealy’s was the establishment of the Fordham Cadet Corps. After an earlier administration had made an unsuccessful attempt to initiate a program of military training on campus, Father Dealy succeeded in October 1885. By 1888, 150 students in three companies, including a company of Second Divisioners, or Prep boys, were engaged in this training, the forerunner of Fordham’s ROTC.
After resigning from the presidency in 1885, Father Dealy served in various parishes, including St. Francis Xavier in Manhattan as well as parishes in Boston and Philadelphia before returning to New York where he was sppointed to St. Lawrence Church in Manhattan. He was known for sponsoring a Sodality of Our Lady wherever he served. A respected priest, he was treasured at each parish where he spent time, and was known for his charm, grace and genuine interest in everyone he met.
Father Patrick Francis Dealy, SJ, Class of 1846, caught pneumonia while visiting a sick communicant and died in New York City on December 23, 1891. He was laid to rest on Christmas Eve in the College Cemetery, which by then had been moved to its current location on Campus near the University Church, just across the way from the Prep.
In 1935, First Division Hall was renamed Dealy Hall insuring that Father Rector's name would be remembered by generations of Fordhamites, University and Prep alike.