Father Vincent Cooke, SJ (1936-2017)

Tue, Jun 27th 2017 02:00 pm

Father Vincent Cooke, SJ, the 23rd president of Canisius College from 1993-2010 who transformed the small college into a prestigious institution and expanded it with new buildings and academic programs, died June 22, 2017, in Murray-Weigel Hall at Fordham University in New York City. He was 81.

Born in 1936 in New York City, Father Cooke grew up in Hoboken, N.J, and joined the Society of Jesus in 1954. He received a bachelor's degree from Fordham University in 1960 and two master's degrees, in education and philosophy, from the same university in 1962 and 1965.

During his postgraduate education, he taught at St. Regis High School in Manhattan for two years and served as an instructor at Fordham. Father Cooke went on to receive advanced theology degrees from both Yale University and Woodstock College in Maryland. After being ordained to the priesthood in 1967, he finished his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1971.

From 1971-76, Father Cooke taught philosophy at Fordham, until he was promoted to vice provincial and later provincial for the New York Province of the Society of Jesus.

In 1985, he returned to Fordham as an associate professor. In 1991, he became executive and academic vice president for John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio, and acting president in 1992.

In 1993, Father Cooke became president of Canisius College. He acquired a former department store at Main Street and Jefferson Avenue from BlueCross BlueShield, which became a science hall, and converted the former St. Vincent de Paul Church at Main Street and Eastwood Place to the current Montante Cultural Center. He added new residence halls and turned Mount St. Joseph Academy's high school building into Lyons Hall, an academic building, and greatly expanded the college's selection of academic offerings.

Father Cooke oversaw two capital campaigns, "Imagine Canisius," which raised $30 million from 1995-2000, and $72 million of the $95.5 million that the "Legacy of Leadership" raised from 2005-2012. He also oversaw the completion of eight major residence hall renovations, at a cost of $85 million.

After retiring from Canisius in 2010, he moved to New York City to serve as assistant to the provincial for higher education for the New York Province of the Jesuits. He was also assistant for strategic planning for the New York province, as well as those of Maryland and New England.

Throughout his lifetime, Father Cooke received honors including The Buffalo News' "Outstanding Citizen" designation in 2001, "Citizen of the Year" by the Erie-Niagara chapter of the New York State Society of Professional Engineers, and "Executive of the Year" by the Buffalo Niagara Sales and Marketing Executives. The Preservation League of New York State honored him in 2003 for renovating campus buildings.

He also received awards from the Buffalo Renaissance Foundation, the Niagara Lutheran Foundation and the National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York. Upon his retirement, Canisius College gave him an honorary doctorate and its Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award.

A funeral Mass was held on the Fordham University campus, with burial in the Jesuit cemetery in Auriesville. A memorial Mass also took place at Canisius College for the college community.

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