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Tributes from Higher education, religious and political leaders

Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities

Scott was a friend and brother to many of us in Jesuit higher education and will be sorely missed. He was a gifted teacher, having honed his craft at Georgetown University over 25 years ago. From Georgetown, he was called to lead The University of Scranton, then Marquette, then Georgetown Prep, before being called back to Scranton to cap his career of astute educational leadership.  

During his tenures at each of these institutions, he was not only president, but a pastor and educator to students, faculty and staff alike. In all of his assignments, Scott dedicated himself wholeheartedly and enthusiastically. We all admired his boundless energy and his capacity to share himself with others.   

But, of all the things he taught us, his last gift was showing us how to face adversity with grace and dignity, with the same abandonment of personal will and comfort that characterized his Jesuit priesthood. That final lesson, his struggle with ALS, is, perhaps, his greatest legacy and a most eloquent example of a life lived totally for others and for Christ. 

Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, S.J.
Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU)  

Statement from the Bishop of Scranton

On behalf of the clergy and faithful in the Diocese of Scranton –I wish to express our deepest condolences to The University of Scranton community and the family of Rev. Scott Pilarz, SJ, upon learning of his passing.“Returning to The University of Scranton to serve a second term as President showed the tremendous love that Father Pilarz had for this community. Since first coming to know him personally in 2003, I have witnessed first-hand his commitment to Jesuit ideals,the mission of The University of Scranton and most especially to the students and faculty of the university.His deep faith, humanity, insight and vision were blessings and gifts he shared freely with all of us. I will miss him as a friend and colleague in ministry.“I pray that Father Pilarz’s family, friends and the entire University of Scranton community may find peace and comfort in the consoling love of Jesus Christ during this time of tremendous sadness.”

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera
Bishop of Scranton

Camden Catholic High School

Fr. Scott Pilarz,  a 1977 graduate from Camden Catholic High School and Board Chair from ’03-’15, was passionate about his Catholic formation during his high school years. He demonstrated leadership for excellence in education, provided wisdom for the leaders of the school, and exemplified the true meaning of Honor, Faith, and Loyalty.  He told the Class of 2015, “I love this place. I love it for what it gave me.” As a proud member of the Performing Arts Program, Fr. Scott said “his time on the stage taught him so much about life”.  We will always remember his passion for Camden Catholic and Catholic education.  

Mary Whipkey 
Camden Catholic High School  

Clarks Summit University

All of the CSU family extends condolences to the University family. Father Pilarz was a powerful, inspiring example of how to persevere in serving God against an unfair enemy. We all need examples like him in our lives, and we thank God for him.

Dr. James Lytle
Clarks Summit University

College of the Holy Cross

In everything he did, Scott Pilarz, S.J. gave his all.  As a professor, administrator, and President, his energy was boundless and his generosity extraordinary.  He was an articulate advocate for Jesuit Higher Education and served with passionate dedication his beloved University of Scranton even as he battled ALS.  He fought the good fight and lived with deep Faith and authentic Hope.  May he rest in peace and great joy.

Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.
College of the Holy Cross

Congressman Matt Cartwright

Father Scott Pilarz, S.J. was a man of vision and faith, a scholar, and a true servant of Christ. His presence on the University of Scranton campus and in the City of Scranton will be missed, but he leaves behind an indelible legacy of progress and prosperity.

Father Pilarz was a true champion and exemplar of Jesuit education. As an educator and administrator, his passion, integrity, and zest for knowledge ignited a fire in all who had the privilege of knowing him. Under his thoughtful and considered leadership, the University of Scranton thrived, earning national recognition for its outcomes and successes. He transformed the hearts and the minds of his students, and his influence will be felt for generations by all who walk the hallowed halls of the buildings he was instrumental in constructing.

Personally, he always warmly welcomed me on campus and was always willing to share the University’s beautiful facilities. I am grateful for his leadership and friendship, and it has been my great honor to serve our community alongside him.

As we remember Father Scott Pilarz, we can find strength and resolve in his faith, inspiration in his dedication to scholarship, and compassion in his commitment to service. May his memory and teachings continue to guide the University of Scranton, its administrators, its faculty, and its students.

-Congressman Matt Cartwright

Council of Independent Colleges

A remarkable leader at the University of Scranton, Father Pilarz was also a valued member of the national community of college and university presidents. The loss of a seasoned and dedicated colleague is felt on campuses across the country, and all send heartfelt good wishes to the University of Scranton community at this difficult time. 
Richard Ekman  
Council of Independent Colleges

Fordham University

The entire Fordham community joins me in offering our deepest condolences to the whole University of Scranton community on Father Pilarz’s death and entrance into eternal life. (Knowing the great love that bound him to the U, and the U to him, I can't even imagine how the sorrow of the community is. Be assured, however, that we will support you with our prayers as you walk through the valley of tears that lies before you.)

As I told Father Pilarz when I wrote to him a few months ago, I have always cherished a photograph that was taken over seventeen years on the occasion of his first inauguration, a photograph that captures a moment of sheer joy that he, Mickey McDonnell and I shared. In fact, I have kept a copy of that photo in my office since the day it was taken. As I said to Father Pilarz, it captured him at a moment filled with promise. What promise? His promise of passionate service to the University. As we know, he fulfilled that promise with grace, graciousness, wit, disarming humility, driving and transforming vision, great wisdom and self-emptying love.

Whenever I have looked at that picture in the course of the past few hard years that he had, I could always hear the words with which he began his second Scranton inauguration address: "I love this place." And so he did--to the delight of all who love Scranton as well. His love for what he famously called "the miracle in the mountains" consoled and inspired the whole Scranton family.

Of course, he left us as only he could. He waited till his successor was named, and only then gave himself permission to go home to God. What a great man. What an exemplary priest. What an iconic son of Saint Ignatius--a pastor and a teacher to the end.

With you, I mourn his loss, but I will be forever grateful for the gift of his friendship, and proud that I can brag that I knew the greatest president the U has ever had.

Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President
Fordham University

Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine

The entire Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine community is saddened by the loss of Fr. Scott Pilarz. I had the good fortune of knowing and working with Fr. Pilarz when he returned to Scranton in 2018. He was a scholar and a man of great compassion who played an indispensable role in the lives of countless students, many of whom continued their studies at our School of Medicine. The relationship between our medical school and the University of Scranton grew stronger under Father Pilarz’s leadership.  
He inspired by example. He opened his students’ eyes to the richness of “the life of the mind” through his teachings in medieval and Renaissance poetry and prose. Later, of course, he gave us all a lesson in grace, courage and faith as he continued to work, lead and teach following his ALS diagnosis.   
As steadfast friends, we join the University of Scranton community in mourning his passing.  
Steven J. Scheinman, MD
President and Dean
Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine  

Georgetown Preparatory School

Scott was a great friend, of course, but he was much more than that.   In so many ways, in his genius for friendship, he showed us a little bit of God's friendship for each of us, for humanity as a whole, and for our world.  And this was not just in the pious moments, but perhaps even more in the other encounters - in the classroom, at a social event, at the shore, in quiet conversation, even at a raucous celebration.  And this, to my way of thinking, is what made Scott very much a Jesuit - a companion of Jesus.  He was, in all things, both finding God and reflecting God back to us. 

Rev. James R. Van Dyke, S.J. 
Georgetown Preparatory School 

Keystone College

The Keystone College community is deeply saddened by the death of Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J. We extend our condolences to the entire University of Scranton community. Father Pilarz was an extraordinary man and his legacy will live on through the countless people whose lives he has impacted.  

Tracy L. Brundage, Ph.D. 
Keystone College President

Lackawanna College

On behalf of the entire Lackawanna College family, I want to extend our deepest sympathies as the community mourns the loss of the Rev. Scott Pilarz, S.J. Father Pilarz lead, taught and lived with passion and kindness and had a deep love for the University of Scranton, its faculty, staff and students, and our entire region. The benefits of his inspirational leadership will have a profound impact for generations to come.   

Dr. Jill Murray
President and Chief Innovation Officer
Lackawanna College

Le Moyne College

"Father Pilarz loved leading the University of Scranton. I first met Scott when I was a new dean at Le Moyne, and Scranton hosted our annual AJCU’s Arts and Sciences Deans conference. When he greeted us, his energy and passion for the university were striking. I could feel how his life as a Renaissance scholar influenced his love for Jesuit education. For Scott, the University represented a contemporary Renaissance where students prepared for a purposeful life filled with knowledge and joy.  We will deeply miss our wonderful friend and colleague. I know President-elect Joe Marina S.J. will steward and build on his tremendous legacy." 

Linda LeMura
President, Le Moyne College

Loyola University Maryland

"Through his leadership, Fr. Pilarz leaves a legacy of service as a person for and with others. He will be remembered for his commitment to Jesuit education, his passion for the liberal arts, and his love for the University of Scranton, where he has truly left his mark on the campus and positioned the university well for the future. On behalf of Loyola University Maryland, I extend our deepest sympathies to the Scranton community." 

Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J.
President, Loyola University Maryland

Loyola Marymount University

I was honored to get to know Scott during the times when our paths crossed over several years at Georgetown University. Though I did not know Scott well at that time, I recall vividly his energy, his passion, particularly for LMU students, for our education, for our mission, and obviously for his teaching.  
I was able to connect again with Scott on occasion: first, when I visited the Scranton campus for an event and saw him interacting with students in ways that delighted me. And though, at that time, I did not have any designs on becoming a university president, I did think—and I can still see the moment—if I ever am a university president, I want to be like Scott. That feeling moves me to this day.  
I lost touch with Scott as he migrated to Marquette; then, when he came back to Scranton and received his diagnosis, we saw less of him, but when we did see him we were able to reconnect in ways meaningful and valuable.  
I had the opportunity to speak with LMU’s Vice President for Mission and Ministry, John Sebastian, who was Father Pilarz’s student. John spoke at length, not just of the quality of Father Pilarz’s teaching, but also how his guidance of John’s thesis ended up steering him to what ultimately became a topic of John’s entire academic career. Scott had a profound effect on our Vice President and I believe we are consequentially gaining from that because John’s prowess as a scholar informs his ability to engage our community, particularly our faculty, who are similarly engaged in scholarly pursuits.  
We owe an abundance to Scott Pilarz. May his soul rest in peace. May his family be blessed and well. We are sorry to lose him, but he left us with a lot of love, and we will always treasure that. 

Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D.
President of Loyola Marymount University 

Luzerne County Community College

I remember attending President Pilarz's inauguration and listening to his inspiring vision for the University of Scranton. Scott's strength was evident in his commitment to students and to his faith. His presence and guidance during his University tenure and throughout his life will always be remembered and honored. He will be missed dearly.  
Thomas P. Leary  
Luzerne County Community College 

Marywood University

Inspired by the spirit of St. Ignatius Loyola, Father Scott Pilarz, S.J., knew his true north. He knew what gave purpose to his life. He knew he was guided by the Ignatian desire to attune one’s life to the needs of others. He was passionate about educating people and drawn to the community he loved at the University of Scranton.

It is for all of these reasons and more that Father Pilarz was not daunted by the debilitating disease that attacked his body, by the effects of COVID-19 that changed in one day the life of the University he led, or by any other challenges that would give pause to many others. Father Pilarz was single-minded in the ministry he embraced.

All of us will miss Father Pilarz. His death should not signal the loss of passion or excellence or love in the world. Rather, it should move us to live with greater purpose and to remember his favorite quote: “Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live.”

May he rest in peace.

Sister Mary Persico, IHM, Ed.D.
President, Marywood University

Paige Cognetti, Mayor, City of Scranton

The City of Scranton mourns the loss of Father Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., President of the University of Scranton. Father Pilarz guided the University community with passion, strength, and dedication, especially through this past year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and the University of Scranton community. 

Penn State Scranton

Father Pilarz was a pillar of our community and truly committed to the University of Scranton’s students and mission. He faced his personal challenges with ALS with dignity, grace and bravery, and his perseverance and courage in his personal struggle, as well as his leadership and accomplishments as the University’s president, will be a lasting legacy.  He will be missed by all of those whose lives he touched and we are keeping him in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.   

Dr. Marwan Wafa
Penn State Scranton

Rockhurst University

Scott was a gentleman and scholar.  His academic expertise was on the literary legacy of 16th century English Jesuit, Robert Southwell and his efforts towards reconciliation. Three hundred years after Southwell, John Henry Cardinal Newman, another Englishman, provided us with “The Idea of a University.” From Discourse VIII of that work, he provided “The Definition of a Gentleman.” This excerpt from that writing, in my opinion, captures his life and legacy as a Jesuit, as a scholar, and as a gentleman:    
“He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome. He makes light of favours while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring.” 
Thomas B. Curran, SJ 
Rockhurst University   

Saint Joseph's University

On behalf of Saint Joseph’s University, I offer my heartfelt condolences to the University of Scranton community. I had the pleasure of meeting Scott during his first tour as Scranton’s president and enjoyed our subsequent opportunities to connect in the ensuing years. Whenever Scott spoke, I always listened closely, and whenever I saw something he wrote, I always read it fully. He had a profound impact on so many people throughout his life. The University of Scranton was made better in many ways as a result of Scott’s presence and leadership.

At Saint Joseph’s, we are grateful for his past service on our Board of Trustees and the most recent presidential search committee. Fr. Pilarz will be remembered for the next year in our special intentions prayer book in our Chapel of St. Joseph’s on campus and prayed for at all Masses.

May he rest in peace.

Mark C. Reed, Ed.D.
Saint Joseph’s University

Santa Clara University

Kevin O’Brien, S.J., president of Santa Clara University shares his condolences with The University of Scranton family at the passing of our president, Scott R. Pilarz, S.J. through this video message.

Scranton Preparatory School

Scott Pilarz and I met in 1978. We were undergraduates at Georgetown; he was a year ahead of me. Our forty-three year friendship was never dull and often uproariously entertaining. We shared long-lived love of many things: the Jersey Shore, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Buffett, politics, the Church, poetry, theater, the humanities, and Jesuit education. I loved him like a brother, for that’s what he was. 
From the very beginning of his life in the Society of Jesus, Scott was a world-class spokesman for Jesuit education. All his Jesuit life, he spoke of it from the heart and with a passion whose genuineness was self-evident and persuasive. His eloquence was singular, as was his voice. He drew people in; he drew people together. He loved The University of Scranton with a Jesuit’s intense, centuries-old, DNA-level love of schools. 
Scott loved the work of Scranton Prep, and all Jesuit high schools, too. Over the years, we talked many times of the deep and strong family bonds that connect Scranton Prep and The University of Scranton. He knew what a blessing those bonds are to both schools and to Scranton. Scranton Prep is deeply grateful to and for Scott Pilarz, SJ. I am, too. 
Ryan Maher, SJ 
President, Scranton Preparatory School 
Trustee, The University of Scranton 

Scranton Tomorrow

"Scranton Tomorrow is so saddened by the loss of such an inspirational and incredible leader. Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, University of Scranton President, dedicated his life to the service of others and was a community minded, giving, and welcoming person who had such an impact on our city and our region, he will be greatly missed." 

Statement from Scranton Tomorrow, a community and economic development organization that frequently collaborates with the University of Scranton

Saint Peter's University

The entire Jesuit education community suffered a tremendous loss with passing of Scott Pilarz, S.J. Saint Peter’s University sends its deepest condolences to Fr. Pilarz’s family and the University of Scranton community. His legacy will surely live on through the impact he made on his students, colleagues and within all of the Jesuit communities in which he served.  

Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D. 
Saint Peter’s University  

Pennsylvania State Representative Kyle Mullins

“To those who worked with, loved, and found spiritual direction in Father Pilarz – especially his University of Scranton family – I extend my condolences and prayers in the wake of his courageous battle with ALS. I wish our paths or tenures had intersected or overlapped, but his bravery served as a source of strength for me personally and others whose families have been impacted by this awful condition. A cure can't come soon enough.”

Kyle Mullins
Pennsylvania State Representative

University of San Francisco

I had the pleasure and the grace to study theology with Fr. Scott Pilarz. We were classmates at the Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the late 80's and early 90's. Scott was brilliant, prayerful, and friendly, but most of all, I remember him as irrepressibly joyful. In the 30 intervening years I followed with interest his various ministries as a doctoral student, professor, chaplain, and president, and it was a blessing to serve with him on the Board of Directors of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities these past three years. While his illness may have taken away the verve of his youth, it was unable to defeat his joyful, faithful spirit. May he rest in the peace of Christ and enjoy the rewards of a good and faithful servant. 

Rev. Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J. 
University of San Francisco  

Xavier University

I initially met Scott early in his Jesuit career as he passed from time to time through the Jesuit Community of his alma mater, Georgetown University, while I was researching and writing my dissertation there.  We caught up again in theology years later; he arrived as I was finishing up and so, once again, he was someone I got to know in passing, from seeing him around and about.

But after he became president at Scranton for the first time, we became members of a group of Jesuit university presidents who gathered annually for a weekend in the fall, every fall.  The three of us initially soon became four, and so The Wildwood Group, LLC was born—a limited liability consulting corporation (we joked) based in Wildwood, New Jersey, at the beach house belonging to Scott’s parents.  

I don’t think we had a sense of what the weekend was going to be like the first time we gathered.  The measure of its success is that we had the second year scheduled within weeks of returning to our respective campuses.  For all of us, it was the place where we could be ourselves authentically and unguardedly, with others who knew what our own lives were liked because they too lived them.

 And Scott was right in the middle of it—not just as a convivial host, though we has that:  decoding for the Midwesterners in the group the ways of the Jersey Shore, showing us the nooks and crannies that only the locals would know, the restaurants (and the characters who ran them) especially.  But more than that, Scott was always in the middle of the conversations in which we all were engaged, conversations about what it meant to be a priest who was also a president, a president who was also a priest.  About the present and future of the important Jesuit apostolate of higher education.

And lighter moments too, as jokes and stories and laughter dissolved into the late night air above us, along with the ascending cigar smoke.  Having grown up on the Jersey Shore, Bruce Springsteen was in his blood.  I marveled at how many times he’d seen The Boss in concert and yet always heard new things in all the old songs.  But then, his ear was likewise honed by the poetry of the Jesuit martyr Robert Southwell, who died too young at Tyburn.  This captured Scott so well for me:  from Springsteen to Southwell and everywhere in between, Scott loved life and found so much to live for.  And the grace with which he accepted his shattering diagnosis, the rack he was called to endure, was the best testimony possible of his deep gratitude to God for all the good he’d been given.  He was a good friend and I miss him dearly. 

Michael J. Graham, SJ 
Xavier University 


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