Jesuit Father James N. Loughran, a former president of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles who later became president of St. Peter’s College in New Jersey, died over the weekend at his home on the St. Peter’s campus. He was 66.
Loughran’s body was found Sunday at the foot of a staircase, apparently after a fall, college spokesman Stephen Hudik said Tuesday. The exact cause of his death had not been determined.
“He devoted his life to Jesuit education and its emphasis on service and cura personalis,” (Latin for “the whole person”) school Provost Eugene J. Cornacchia said about Loughran.
In his long academic career Loughran was president of four colleges starting with Loyola Marymount in 1984. He was later appointed acting president of Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, New York, for one year in 1991, and then became interim president of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., before going to St. Peter’s College in 1995.
A statement from Loyola Marymount University this week credited Loughran with directing “considerable financial resources to academics.” He also reduced the minimum course load for professors to allow them more time for research and publishing.
“Jim was given a mandate to push ahead in academic excellence and he made good on that,” said Father Robert Caro, a faculty member who was on the search committee that selected Loughran.
He established classes in the study of American cultures, in part to raise awareness of the school’s minority students who were pushing for greater recognition.
Minority students accounted for about 31% of the student body in 1989. They now represent about 43%. “That thrust began when Father Loughran got here,” Caro said.
He was president in 1990 when one of Loyola Marymount’s top basketball players, Hank Gathers, collapsed during a game and died. Gathers’ family brought a wrongful-death suit against Loyola Marymount that the school settled for $545,000.
Loughran raised the university’s endowment from about $21 million to $106 million before he resigned unexpectedly in 1991. “I need to slow down for a while, read and think,” he said in a statement.
When he went to Brooklyn College, which is part of City University of New York, the chancellor’s office praised Loughran for “his deep commitment to academic excellence and extensive administrative experience.” Loughran held the post until a search committee selected a permanent president.
It was unusual for a cleric to lead a public school.
“Part of why it happened was that Jim was from Brooklyn and he believed in Brooklyn,” said Father Raymond Scroth, a longtime friend, this week. Beyond that, “Jim knew the art of administration,” Scroth said. “You could plug him in at Brooklyn College or another school and he knew what to do.”
Loughran next spent about one year at Mount St. Mary’s University before he was named president of St. Peter’s College. There, he turned what had been primarily a commuter school into one with about half of its 3,000 students residing on or near campus. He also chose a school motto, “One Student at a Time.”
Loughran was born in Brooklyn on March 22, 1940, and grew up a short walk from Ebbetts Field, home of the Dodgers until they began playing in Los Angeles in 1958.
He entered Jesuit training after graduating from high school in 1957 and was ordained a priest in 1970.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in history and a doctorate in philosophy at Fordham University. He was particularly interested in the philosophy of Plato, and in ethics, Scroth said.
One of his first teaching assignments was as a professor of philosophy at St. Peter’s in the 1960s. He later taught at Fordham and at John Carroll University in Cleveland, before he became a college administrator.
Loughran is survived by several nieces and nephews.
Contributions in his name can be made to St. Peter’s College, President’s Office, 2641 Kennedy Blvd., Jersey City, N.J., 07306.