In Memoriam - Reverend Donald F. Rowe, S.J.

It is with heavy hearts that we inform you of the passing of Fr. Donald F. Rowe, S.J., second founder of Saint Ignatius College Prep. Please keep the Rowe family and their loved ones, as well as the Society of Jesus, in your prayers.
February 18, 1941 - December 11, 2021

Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Donald F. Rowe, S.J., founder of the Martin D'Arcy Gallery of Art and 28th President of Saint Ignatius College Prep. Fr. Rowe died on December 11, 2021 at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. He was 80 years old.
 
Fr. Rowe was born on February 18, 1941 in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in St. Ignatius Parish. He graduated from Loyola Academy in 1958 and attended Loyola University Chicago (LUC) for one year before entering the Society of Jesus. While in the Society, Fr. Rowe earned a Bachelor's Degree in Classics (i.e. Greek and Latin) from Xavier University (1963). He completed his Philosophy studies at North Aurora (1964-1965), studied English at LUC (1965-1966), and earned a Master's in Art History from Columbia University in New York (summers and during the 1966-1967 school year). He studied Theology for one year in North Aurora and completed his studies at and earned a Master's of Divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology in Chicago (1970-1973). Fr. Rowe was ordained on June 8, 1972 at Madonna Della Strada Chapel on the campus of Loyola University Chicago. Later in life, Fr. Rowe received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from LUC for his contributions to Jesuit education. He also served as the director of the Martin D'Arcy Gallery of Art, LUC's museum of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art (1969-1993).
 
Fr. Rowe pronounced final vows on February 2, 1981 at Loyola University Chicago and later that year left higher education to become president of Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago. He was president for almost two decades at Saint Ignatius (1981-1998) and was recognized by the board at Saint Ignatius College Prep as being the "Second Founder" of the school. For many benefactors and their families, he became their family priest.

While Fr. Rowe was most known for his great success as a fundraiser and a builder — and for his great eye for design — for Fr. Rowe, his meticulous care for the historic and beautiful building and grounds at Saint Ignatius was always aimed at ennobling the diverse student body that is privileged to study there. He regarded Saint Ignatius as an example of great public architecture which belongs to everyone. To that end, Fr. Rowe worked tirelessly to ensure that generous financial aid was available to all students qualified to study at Saint Ignatius. He elevated faculty salaries and compensation following the mantra that you cannot preach about justice if you do not practice it. He also began the school's endowment fund. Fr. Rowe understood education as "soulcraft," and he took the religious and spiritual dimensions of student and faculty/staff formation very seriously. To that end, in the late 1990s, Fr. Rowe asked Fr. Joe Brennan, S.J. to begin the adult faith development program, which has grown to become a model for many other Jesuit high schools. Fr. Rowe also patiently but firmly encouraged the Saint Ignatius community to become more supportive of students with diverse learning styles and those who coped with personal and family problems.
 
After finishing his term as president, Fr. Rowe oversaw the care of the Saint Ignatius gardens for many years amongst the many other tasks he oversaw at the time. During the 2000s, Saint Ignatius was awarded the "Best Institutional Landscaping" award three times by the City of Chicago because of these gardens. In addition, Fr. Rowe designed and planted the Healing Garden next to Church of the Holy Family for the Archdiocese of Chicago as an outreach to victims of clerical sexual abuse.
 
Fr. Rowe mentored Matthew Lynch '95 in the founding of Chicago Jesuit Academy and assisted in the fundraising and design of its west side Austin campus. His passion for educational innovation and growth never waned. In his later years he undertook a successful campaign of founding and building Jesuit high schools in India for students in the lowest caste system.
 
In 1999, Fr. Rowe launched Educational Resource Programs, which offered consulting services to Catholic universities and high schools (1999-2013). In 2003, his book, "A Straight-Talking Guide to Running a School", was published by the National Catholic Educational Association. In 2016, he was missioned to St. Camillus to care for his health and pray for the Church and the Society of Jesus.
 
Fr. Rowe’s successor as president of Saint Ignatius, former rector at LUC, and former provincial, the Very Rev. Brian Paulson, S.J. shared that, "Fr. Rowe was a voracious reader. He had a capacious mind which was insatiably curious about history, culture, art, architecture, education, psychology and spirituality, to mention but a few of his more common areas of reading. He would often read three books a week in recent years. When he lived at Loyola University, meeting Jesuit graduate students at Arrupe House led him to read extensively about India."
 
Matt Walsh '64 said, "During the over four decades of my life with Father Rowe (now called Don for the rest of this message as that is how he was called in our family) Don moved from being a trusted friend and partner in all things St. Ignatius to becoming a member of our family. Don only had himself and Mary Ellen in his personal family. They both became part of our family. Holidays, weddings, funerals and all of life’s events in our family were celebrated with Don. He became a guiding light for us all. Deeply committed to his faith, his commitment to the Jesuits and to his various roles as a Jesuit, whether as a scholar of art history and religious relics or a professor or a leader and fund raiser, Don gave his entire energy to all he pursued. His love for St. Ignatius and its mission knew no bounds. I remember well him sitting in our living room in Wisconsin drawing sketches of how newly developed spaces might look borrowing from classic spaces around the world. Don believed that the beauty of the spaces students experienced at SI could be just as important in their education as what they learned from books and teachers. And he strongly believed the students deserved this exposure to beauty and space. Don could have become a leader in almost any career he chose. From the moment he committed to become a Jesuit his only goal was to improve the world and educate others. We have lost a dear friend and family member. I do not know now who to turn to when I want to read the next great book. He was always our source for great reads. Don was an inspiration and a guide post in our lives. We shall miss him but never forget him." 
 
Dan Walsh '65 said, "Fr. Damen founded St. Ignatius College back in 1869 at 1076 W. Roosevelt Road. As the school continued to grow, it would later split into St. Ignatius High School and Loyola University. Wouldn’t it have been interesting to have known Fr. Damen? Fr. Rowe must have thought the same thing when he arrived at St. Ignatius in 1981 where Don had the unexpected but daunting task of founding St. Ignatius all over again. By 1981, St. Ignatius High School was constructively bankrupt with a dilapidated 112-year old building which was beyond repair. Don turned out to be the perfect person for this task in 1981 when setting out over the next 17 years to raise over $100,000,000 in donations while restoring and expanding the high school into the now National Historic Landmark campus of St. Ignatius College Prep. Everyone that walked this trail with Don knows how appropriate is the distinction for him of "Second Founder of St. Ignatius College Prep." Don’s vision, Art History background, work ethic, and dedication to a mission almost killed him; but he got the job done! On behalf of all those volunteers enlisted by Don back then to share on this task with him, let me say what a honor and privilege it was! We were blessed to watch a master-at-work energizing the St. Ignatius alumni; restoring the historic buildings; rejuvenating the curriculum; and re-invigorating the St. Ignatius student experience. Don had an unwavering commitment to the Society of Jesus which he lived every day of his life; and gave inspiration for so many to have faith in the Jesuit way of life and the Jesuit educational system. During these years, Don became a cherished member of the Walsh family. Patty and myself and Matt and Joyce and the entire Walsh family were blessed with his presence in our lives; and devastated now by his passing. Don married most of our children; baptized most of our grandchildren; buried most of our loved ones; and gracefully shared his life with our family for the past 40 years. Don was loved! Don is missed! Thank you, Don, for everything that you have done for so many; especially for the Walsh family!" 
 
John Chandler, current president of Saint Ignatius added, "Fr. Rowe made great sacrifice in his Jesuit and private life to ensure not only the continued strength of the Catholic and Jesuit mission of the school, but that the work that was done to "save" the school during Fr. Joseph Bowen, S.J.'s tenure would ensure not only a preservation, but a bold and clear future for the coming generations of students. Fr. Rowe spent seven days a week working, dreaming, praying and fundraising. Anyone who worked with him knew of his boundless energy and his high expectations of achievement from his colleagues. None of what he undertook or accomplished was for him--all was done to bring people closer to Christ. One hundred years from now, future Ignatians and administrators will continue to be inspired by his work. He truly undertook, as St. Ignatius exhorted, to ite inflammate omnia - go forth and set the world on fire. His "fire" will forever burn brightly." 
 
A memorial Mass will be held in April at the Church of the Holy Family. After the Mass, a gathering will be held at Saint Ignatius College Prep. Please watch for details on the Saint Ignatius website: www.ignatius.org
 
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.
 
Saint Ignatius College Prep
Office of the President
1076 W. Roosevelt Rd. 
Chicago, IL 60608
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