Remembering Thomas Patrick Melady, 1927-2014

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Thomas Patrick Melady, who served as Saint Joseph’s University’s first executive vice president from 1973 to 1976, passed away on Monday, January 6, 2014.

His academic career included stints as a professor at St. John’s and Fordham universities in New York; he left Saint Joseph’s to assume the presidency of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., a position he held from 1976 to 1986.

University President C. Kevin Gillespie, S.J. ’72 remembers Melady as “an inspiring figure through his life-long witness as a Catholic deeply grounded in his faith, generous in his availability, wise in his practical politics and supportive to the Church's local and global mission to the poor.”

Maureen H. McCullough, regional director of Catholic Relief Services, recalls, “He was indeed a man of great faith who was committed to addressing the pressing issues of our time, especially global hunger.  He sought to bring the best minds to address this challenging issue as well as many others.”

In 1974-75, with Dr. Melady’s support, Saint Joseph’s hosted two conferences on hunger, one on the theology of hunger and the other on the politics of hunger. They set the stage for the 1976 Eucharistic Conference theme of the hungers of the human family.

Sr. Mary Scullion ’75, co-founder, executive director and president of Project HOME, who was a student during Malady’s tenure at SJU, remembers him as an inspiring leader. “What I remember most is the wholehearted commitment and support that he provided to faculty and students to further the work of peace and justice in our City and beyond. His leadership made a lasting impact on students, faculty and our community. He empowered us to act locally and think globally.”

The author of 16 books – two of which he wrote while at SJU – Melady combined his scholarly career with a career in diplomacy.  He was a leading authority on sub-Saharan Africa and was named U.S. Ambassador to the African country of Burundi in 1969 by President Nixon before becoming ambassador to Uganda in 1972. After serving as assistant U.S. secretary of education for post-secondary education, he was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to be Ambassador to the Holy See, a position he held from 1989 to 1993.

In an interview with Fox News in 2005, he recalled his final meeting with Pope John Paul II. “I said I came with a mission to accomplish certain things. One thing I didn’t accomplish was a recognition of Israel. And he smiled at me and he said, ‘Wait and see.’”

Within a year, the Vatican recognized the state of Israel and opened full diplomatic relations.

Born in Norwich, Conn., Melady served in the US. Army from 1945 to 1947,  following his graduation from high school.  He earned his bachelor’s degree from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh in 1950 and then received his master’s degree and Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America in 1952 and 1954, respectively.

He received honorary doctorates from 30 universities and recognitions from six countries.

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