Thomas P. O'Malley, an engaging and scholarly priest who headed Loyola Marymount University during a period of significant expansion in the 1990s, died in Boston on Wednesday, apparently of a heart attack. He was 79.
His death was announced by Boston College, where he was a professor and former dean.
O'Malley was president of Loyola Marymount, the Jesuit campus in Westchester, from 1991 to 1999. A skillful fundraiser, he oversaw a capital improvement drive that raised $144 million, $16 million more than its goal. Among projects completed during his tenure were the Hilton Center for Business and the Burns Recreation Center.
He also initiated the development of new residence halls and paved the way for the purchase in 2000 of the 680,000-square-foot former headquarters of Hughes Aircraft, a landmark building that now houses the college of liberal arts, the School of Education, administrative offices and state-of-the-art classrooms.
One of the academic initiatives spawned under O'Malley's leadership was the Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles, devoted to research, teaching and civic action on regional issues, including education, immigration and politics.
He also led an effort to hire more minority faculty, which earned the university the Theodore M. Hesburgh Award from the American Council on Education in 1998.
An inspired teacher, O'Malley was remembered for his enthusiastic engagement in campus life, from singing in the choir at Sunday Mass to portraying Pope Paul III in a faculty play.
"Father O'Malley was truly a renaissance man -- bigger than life, quick with wit, poetical and well-versed in languages," Loyola Marymount President Robert B. Lawton said in a statement.
The son of Irish immigrants, O'Malley was born March 1, 1930, in Milton, Mass. He graduated from Boston College in 1951 with a bachelor's degree in classics and earned a master's degree from Fordham University in 1953 before entering the Society of Jesus at the former Shadowbrook novitiate in Lenox, Mass. He completed his theological training at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium and was ordained in Brussels in 1961.
In 1967, after earning a doctorate in literature and early Christian theology from Nijmegen University in the Netherlands, he became chairman of Boston College's department of classical languages. He later chaired its theology department and in 1973 was named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
In 1980, he became president of John Carroll University in Cleveland, where he oversaw during the next eight years the construction of new residence halls and other buildings, increased funds for scholarships and campus ministry and added several endowed chairs.
He taught in Nigeria for a year and was rector of the Jesuit community at Fairfield University in Connecticut before being appointed 13th president of Loyola Marymount University in 1991.
After retiring from Loyola Marymount in 1999, he returned to Boston to teach.
"It meant so much to him to end his career teaching in the Boston College arts and sciences honors program," said Mark O'Connor, a former student of O'Malley's who now directs the program. "He made it clear that after being president of two Jesuit universities, the only way that you could go up was to become a teacher again."
O'Malley is survived by three siblings: Mary E. O'Malley and John F. O'Malley, both of Milton, Mass.; and Austin J. O'Malley of Dedham, Mass. Memorial donations may be sent to the Rev. Thomas P. O'Malley, S.J. Scholarship, care of Alma Vorst, 1 LMU Drive, Suite 2800, Los Angeles, CA 90045-2659.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times