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Fr. Mathias Doyle, O.F.M., president of St. Bonaventure University for 15 years, died today at the Siena College Friary after a battle with cancer. He was 82.
A Franciscan friar for 58 years and a priest for 54, Fr. Mathias was president of St. Bonaventure from 1975 to 1990, the third-longest presidential tenure in university history.
A wake service will be held from 7-9 p.m. Saturday, June 18, at the Siena College Friary Chapel, with a funeral Mass scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday, June 19, at St. Mary of Angels Chapel, 515 Loudon Road, Loudonville, N.Y. Burial will be at St. Agnes Cemetery, Menands, N.Y.
“His leadership style was quiet and lacking in drama but his steady hand on the wheel kept the university moving forward while integrating new demands and welcoming new generations,” said Sr. Margaret Carney, O.S.F., university president. “The fact that Matt was happy to live out his days at Siena says much about his commitment to higher education. I was always grateful for his warm welcome and supportive words.”
Fr. Mathias led St. Bonaventure during a time when major institutional changes were underway, she said.
The Board of Trustees appointed its first lay leaders. Mt. Irenaeus, the Franciscan mountain retreat in Allegany County, was established. Christ the King Seminary had just moved in 1974 from Francis Hall to East Aurora. Athletics moved to Division I in all 14 sports.
On campus, major additions included the John J. Murphy Professional Building, the Garden Apartments, a new Friary, the observatory, and an addition to Plassmann Hall.
“During these years, the work to build endowments, professionalize fundraising, and manage the ever-present twin realities of enrollment and finances kept Fr. Matt focused on keeping the university in good institutional health,” Sr. Margaret said.
Fr. Mathias was born John Joseph in Malone, N.Y., on Nov. 18, 1933, to Francis and Madeline (Donnelly) Doyle. After graduating from Catholic Central High School in Troy, N.Y., in 1951, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., in 1955.
He was received into the Order of Friars Minor, Holy Name Province, on July 14, 1956, in Lafayette, N.J., and professed first vows there the following year. He studied philosophy at St. Francis College in Rye Beach, N.H., and theology at Holy Name College in Washington, D.C., and professed final vows on Aug. 22, 1960. He was ordained to the priesthood in Washington on March 17, 1962.
After a year of pastoral training at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, Fr. Mathias was assigned to the faculty of St. Francis College, where he taught history and sociology for two years. He received his master’s degree from Catholic University of America in Washington in 1965, and completed his Ph.D. in political science from Notre Dame University in 1968.
Fr. Mathias’ first assignment after studies was to his alma mater, Siena College, where he was professor of political science from 1968 to 1975. During this time, he was chair of the political science department and served as a member of the president’s advisory council. He was also elected guardian of the Franciscan community at the college and served as assistant director of the Province’s pre-novitiate formation program.
In 1975, Fr. Mathias was elected the 17th president of St. Bonaventure. The youngest friar ever selected for the position, his 15-year term in office is exceeded only by that of Fr. Thomas Plassmann, O.F.M., who served 29 years, and Fr. Joseph Butler, O.F.M., who served 24 years. Doyle Hall on campus is named after him.
From 1990 to 1991, Fr. Mathias served as the first Administrator’s Fellow with the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) in Washington, D.C. He was also special consultant to the Office of Congressman Amory Houghton.
Fr. Mathias was assigned to St. Anthony Shrine in Boston in 1991, where he ministered for two years. Then, in 1993, he returned to St. Bonaventure University as professor of political science and served in that capacity for the next seven years.
From 2000 to 2002, while stationed at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md., Fr. Mathias became the Province’s representative to the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, an advocacy group that promotes social justice in corporations. He would go on to serve in this capacity for more than 12 years. He was also a member of the Province’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Directorate.
In 2002, Fr. Mathias returned to St. Anthony Shrine where he served as director of human services for the next five years. During this time, he was appointed general visitator to the Province of Ireland and delegate general to the friars in India.
In 2004, Fr. Mathias organized a Province-wide convocation on the topic of globalization. The event, which took place from June 9 to 14, 2004, at Siena College, included representatives of the Province’s Partners-in-Ministry and was sponsored at least in part by the Province’s Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Directorate.
From 2007 to 2011, Fr. Mathias served as director of the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy FCSA) at Siena College. After concluding his position, he remained on campus to assist the FCSA in more informal ways. He also ministered at a parish and an assisted living facility in the local area. He concluded his service as the Province’s representative to the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility in 2015.
Fr. Mathias is survived by several nieces and nephews.
Memorial donations may be sent to Franciscan Friars, Holy Name Province, 144 West 32nd St., New York, NY 10001-3202.
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