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Father William Sullivan, longest-serving Seattle U president, dies at 84

Photo caption: Jesuit Father William Sullivan, who served as president of Seattle University from 1976 to 1996, died June 16. Photo: Courtesy Seattle University Photo caption: Jesuit Father William Sullivan, who served as president of Seattle University from 1976 to 1996, died June 16. Photo: Courtesy Seattle University

Jesuit Father William J. Sullivan, who served as president of Seattle University from 1976 to 1996, died June 16, at the St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. He was 84.

Born in Freeport, Illinois, he spent most of his childhood in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. After graduating from Campion Jesuit High School, he entered the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, Missouri. He was ordained Sept. 2, 1961, and made final vows Aug. 15, 1965, according to a letter from the Jesuits’ Wisconsin Province.

He studied in France, in Germany, and at Yale, where he earned a Ph.D. After stints at Marquette and St. Louis University, he came to Seattle U, where he served a year as chancellor before becoming president.

In a message to the Seattle University community, current president Jesuit Father Stephen Sundborg wrote that he considered Father Sullivan “The Maker of the Modern Seattle University.”

His accomplishments at Seattle U, according to Father Sundborg, included the building of the modern campus, two successful capital campaigns, the purchase and transferal of the Seattle University School of Law, the financial righting of the university, the founding of the School of Theology and Ministry and the creation of the Chapel of St. Ignatius.

“He was widely recognized as an educational leader both regionally and nationally,” said Father Sundborg.

He is survived by a sister, Sacred Heart Sister Kathleen Sullivan, professor emerita of mathematics at Seattle U.

A funeral Mass was to be celebrated June 22 in Wisconsin. A memorial Mass will be celebrated Friday, June 26, at 10 a.m. at St. James Cathedral in Seattle.

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