Father William J. Watters, SJ, has announced to parents, faculty, staff and supporters that he will – at age 89 – soon step aside as president of The Loyola School, the third of three scholarship-supported schools he has founded for underprivileged Baltimore City children.
Joseph Lombard, chair of the board of The Loyola School, offered a reflection on Fr. Watters’ decision and information on a search committee for his successor.
Fr. Watters opened The Loyola School in 2017 as a preschool, at first called the Loyola Early Learning Center. The school, which does not charge tuition and is supported by private donors, added a kindergarten in 2021 and is continuing to expand by one grade level each year. In 2025, it will reach full enrollment of about 200 boys and girls from Baltimore families in need. It will then comprise three preschool levels, a kindergarten and first through fourth grades.
The school, which accepts students without regard to religious affiliation, is also expanding physically. A $10 million project is underway to create a state-of-the-art elementary school facility from five East Madison Street townhouses across from St. Ignatius Catholic Church in the Mount Vernon area of Baltimore.
Fr. Watters also founded St. Ignatius Loyola Academy in 1993, originally located at St. Ignatius Church and now in Federal Hill. The tuition-free school serves 120 boys from ethnically and religiously diverse low-income families in grades five through eight.
Fr. Watters then led the creation of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, which opened in 2007. It enrolls 350 girls and boys in grades 9 through 12 who could not otherwise afford a private high school. Cristo Rey combines a rigorous college preparatory academic program with corporate internships for each student.
Fr. Watters considers the three schools he started as a Jesuit educational ecosystem for Baltimore City.
Fr. Watters is originally from New Jersey and joined the Jesuits in 1952. Since then, he has taught at Loyola Blakefield in Towson; served two stints as pastor of St. Ignatius Church in Baltimore, where he still assists; and served as a top aide to the provincial of what was then the Maryland Province Jesuits. He also, among other assignments, served at Old St. Joseph’s Church in Philadelphia and helped lead the call for a coeducational boarding school in Nigeria, which was then founded by the New York Province and today has more than 800 students.
Fr. Watters will remain president of The Loyola School until a new one is elected and will then serve as president emeritus and as a trustee. He says he will continue to assist in fundraising and other ways needed. He is also a trustee at Cristo Rey and at Loyola Blakefield, as well as a trustee emeritus at St. Ignatius Loyola Academy.