March 10, 2021Dear Members of the University Community,
I am saddened to report that Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., the University’s 24 th and 27 th President, passed away today at the age of 61 from complications related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Father Pilarz shared the news of his ALS diagnosis in 2018, promising to “move forward” and “keep working” in service of a university and a community he had grown to love as his home. In the years that followed, he poured himself into the work together with all of you, achieving so many remarkable accomplishments. He challenged us to dream and plan for the University’s future while never forgetting our mission as a Catholic and Jesuit university. He spoke passionately on behalf of others facing ALS, helping to dispel myths as he raised awareness.
Anyone who spent time with Father Pilarz experienced his humor, compassion and genuine humanity. He was a person for others in every sense, devoted to a life of service that exemplifies what it means to be a Jesuit and a priest. Along the way, the depth of his vocation and of his love for all that makes us human inspired countless students, alumni, parents, friends and colleagues to see beyond themselves and to strive for something more.
Over the last year, perhaps the most challenging ever faced in higher education, Father Pilarz guided us calmly and confidently through the pandemic’s chaos, focused always on our students and on the sacred mission to provide them with a transformational Catholic and Jesuit education. He met other challenges head-on as well, harnessing our strengths to serve the needs of the community and the wider world. He championed the University’s response against racism and the sexual abuse crisis facing the Church. He advocated tirelessly for the humanities and for the liberal arts as core to the formation of students.
Through his two terms as President, he transformed campus and advanced our mission. The exceptional success of the Pride, Passion, Promise Campaign made possible the largest and most ambitious projects in the University’s history – everything from the Patrick & Margaret DeNaples Center, John & Jacquelyn Dionne Campus Green and Loyola Science Center, to Christopher and Margaret Condron Hall, and Sandra & Paul Montrone Hall and the hall that would bear his name.
Also during his tenure, Scranton earned national recognition for academic quality, community engagement and student success, achieving record admissions. He expanded international mission and service opportunities and programs, and provided dedicated support for research by new faculty members, among a host of other accomplishments.
As we all mourn his loss, the trustees are keenly aware that, more than anything, Father Pilarz would insist on the University continuing to “move forward” and “keep working” on behalf of our students and mission. In accord with the University’s by-laws,Jeff Gingerich, Ph.D., University Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, will serve as Acting President. As previously announced, Joseph G. Marina, S.J., begins his term as President in June.
Information will be shared soon about ways for the University community to pay their respects. A public viewing is being planned. A funeral mass, while private, will be available for online viewing.
In a special way, please join me in expressing our great sadness to Father’s parents, Ron and Joan Pilarz, who themselves have become part of the Scranton family. Please remember Father Pilarz and his family and many friends in your prayers.
Remember also to care for one another. I want to remind students of the support available on campus through the Counseling Center and Campus Ministries, and faculty and staff of support through the University’s Employee Assistance Program.
Father Pilarz concluded the announcement of his diagnosis by reminding us that we must “find God in all things” and inviting us to do so with him. May he continue to inspire us to follow that example.
May God bless you, may God bless Catholic and Jesuit education, and may God bless The University of Scranton.
James M. Slattery ’86
Chair, Board of Trustees
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