Rev. Joseph R. Fahey, 65; Donated Blackjack Winnings to Jesuit Order

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

The Rev. Joseph R. Fahey, a master fund-raiser who donated tens of thousands of dollars to his Jesuit order with the help of his card-counting skills, died Wednesday in a Boston hospital of an apparent heart attack. He was 65.

Garbed in his single blue suit, Fahey played blackjack tables from Atlantic City to Las Vegas, in his words “all for the greater glory of God,” until the casinos blacklisted him.

He was considered a mathematical genius and donated his winnings from gambling to the Society of Jesus to uphold his vow of poverty.


“Many Jesuit missions owe a great debt to him and his abilities at the card table,” said John Dunn, who worked for Fahey at Boston College High School.

As president of Boston College High from 1988 to 1998, Fahey boosted the school’s endowment by 500%, financing an athletic center, library and computer laboratory.

Fahey received a doctorate in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1967 and was ordained a priest in 1968. He taught economics at Holy Cross College in Worcester from 1968 to 1970, becoming dean of academics from 1971 to 1981.

He also taught economics at Boston College. On the last day of each semester, he treated students to a lesson on card counting and an explanation of how he beat the odds in blackjack.

The class was always well-attended.

Fahey earned his bachelor’s degree in economics and master’s in philosophy from Boston College. While working on his doctorate at MIT, he became an expert on the economics of local taxation and wrote his thesis on what a local income tax or local sales tax would do for Boston.

At the time of his death, Fahey was provincial assistant for finance of the New England province for the Jesuit order.


He is survived by a sister, Peggy Fahey Annett, of Newtown, Conn.