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William J. Byron, S.J., known both for his leadership of six Jesuit institutions of higher learning and his writings on the relationship between business practices and Catholic spirituality, died at Manresa Hall, the health center of the Jesuit community at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia on April 9, 2024. He was 96.

Born on May 25, 1927, in Pittsburgh, Bill Byron spent his early years in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, where his father, Harold, a physician, had an ear, nose, and throat medical practice. Unfortunately, Bill grew up with no recollection either of his father, who died in January 1928. Mrs. Byron then moved with Bill and his older brother Harold to a quiet, tree-lined section of East Germantown in Philadelphia. Both boys graduated from Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School. After Bill turned 18, he registered for the draft and subsequently spent 17 weeks in the Army’s basic training camp near Macon, Georgia but was never deployed overseas. After the war, he went to Germany as part of the Army of Occupation, where he joined the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. He finished his tour of duty there in November 1946 and returned to Philadelphia.

After spending three years at Saint Joseph’s College in Philadelphia, participating in a number of theatrical productions, Bill entered the Society of Jesus at the Novitiate of St. Isaac Jogues in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. Here he interiorized for two years the charism of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, as he went from a college student to a person developing a life-sustaining spirituality. After continuing studies for a year in Latin, Greek, French, history, and literature, he spent three years studying philosophy at Saint Louis University, followed by two years teaching at Scranton Preparatory School in Pennsylvania. He then spent four more years studying theology at Woodstock College, outside of Baltimore. In June 1961, he was ordained a priest by Archbishop Francis P. Keough of Baltimore and subsequently continued studying Jesuit spirituality for another year at Auriesville, New York.

Beginning in the fall of 1963, Fr. Byron pursued doctoral studies at the University of Maryland. He held a teaching fellowship and a U.S. Department of Labor Manpower Research Fellowship, which funded his dissertation on “The Applicability of the Job-Bank Concept to the Washington, D.C., Market for Domestic Dayworkers.”

Fr. Byron’s career as an administrator began in October 1969 as an associate professor and rector of the Jesuit community at Woodstock College, the Jesuit seminary in New York, and a few years later began four years of service as chairman of the board of directors of Bread for the World. In 1973, he became dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and associate professor of economics for two years at Loyola University in New Orleans. Fr. Byron’s time at Loyola put him on a track he would take for most of his future work.

When he talked in 1975 with Mary Scranton, the wife of the former governor of Pennsylvania, she encouraged him to accept the post as president of the University of Scranton. While there, he completed a successful $3 million capital fundraising campaign. When this and other development programs were finished, they doubled the university’s endowment.

Fr. Byron’s success at Scranton did not go unnoticed, particularly by Archbishop Philip M. Hannan of New Orleans, the chairperson of the search committee for a new president of The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C. Fr. Byron and Archbishop Hannan had previously known one another in New Orleans; since both had military experience as paratroopers, they easily formed a close friendship. At age 54, Fr. Byron became the 12th president of CUA in 1982 and served there for almost ten years.

By the time Fr. Byron left CUA, the campus had changed considerably. Two years after his arrival, he broke ground for a 40-acre, $8.5 million athletic complex, followed in 1987 by a high-tech building for the Department of Physics and the Vitreous State Laboratory. A year later, he oversaw the $5 million renovation and restoration of the historic McMahon Hall. During these years, CUA developed at a rapid pace under Father Byron’s aegis. He presided in May 1992 over the groundbreaking of the $35 million Columbus School of Law. During the Byron CUA years, the endowment more than tripled to $60 million as CUA completed $51 million in construction projects

A year later, Fr. Byron became a professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and, at the same time, rector of the Jesuit community and director of the Center of Advanced Study of Ethics at Georgetown, followed by serving for three years as pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Washington. He later accepted the post of interim president of Loyola University, New Orleans, and then president of his high school alma mater Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School for two years. Before retiring from academia in 2009, Fr. Byron taught a graduate course in the Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University.

In his later years, Fr. Byron continued writing and publishing, including, Next-Generation Leadership: A Toolkit for Those in Their Teens, Twenties, & Thirties, Who Want to be Successful Leaders. He was the author of more than 20 books.

In 2019, he moved to Manresa Hall at Saint Joseph’s University, where he enjoyed visits with students and never missed an opportunity to sing the St. Joseph’s Prep Fight Song.

Whether as an administrator, professor, or parish priest, Fr. Byron always made a concerted effort to build up community with his Jesuit brothers in unassuming ways and to promote the apostolates of the Society of Jesus with a discerning, generous, and upbeat spirit.