Remembering Father Panuska: A Timeline

Read how the boy from east Baltimore grew up to become the president of The University of Scranton.

1927: The Boy from East Baltimore


Joseph Allan Panuska is born on July 3 in Baltimore, where his ancestors settled after leaving Germany and Bohemia in the late 1880s. He is the middle child of Barbara and Joseph, manager of foundries in Baltimore, Maryland, and Newark, New Jersey. His parents constantly stress the importance of education. The family’s typical two-story, white-stepped row house, which sometimes has eight occupants, sits in a neighborhood of diverse ethnic origins. The dwelling includes a well-stocked library where young Al, as he is called, finds his imagination stirred and his appetite for knowledge whetted amidst leather-bound books and sets of the classics.

When the Bookish Lad is challenged by a neighborhood bully, Al agrees, at the insistence of his brothers, to a backyard boxing match and bloodies the bully’s nose (self-proclaimed as the most marvelous triumph of his life). But pugilism is no match for reading and his other adolescent passion, tennis. Many hours on the local park’s clay courts prepare him for competition at the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. Many more hours in the library prepare him to achieve distinction as “chief justice” for student government and class valedictorian.

1948: Joining the Society of Jesus


The Challenges of pre-med studies, varsity tennis, service as a class officer and editing the yearbook at Baltimore’s Jesuit-run Loyola College cannot overshadow a greater calling. Daily attendance at Mass and prayer for an answer finally provide the inner confirmation he has been seeking.

In 1948, he joins the Society of Jesus.

1960: Degrees and Appointments


He Receives advanced degrees from St. Louis University and Woodstock College. In 1960, he is ordained to the priesthood; a year of spiritual studies in Germany follows.

Appointments for low-temperature biology research take him to the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta and Cambridge University in England.

1974: Teaching


He Teaches biology at Georgetown University for 10 years and also serves as rector of the Jesuit community there. After Georgetown, he receives an honorary degree (1974) from Scranton. Then he serves for six years as the Provincial of the seven-state Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus. Next it’s on to Boston College for a three-year stint as academic vice president and dean of faculties.

1982: His Presidency


Two Days before his 55th birthday, Rev. J.A. Panuska, S.J., becomes the 22nd president of The University of Scranton. During 16-year tenure, the longest of any president in the school’s history, the University reaches new plateaus in academic programs, facilities, community outreach and national recognition for quality.

1983: Madonna della Strada

Rock Hall, home of Madonna della Strada Chapel, is dedicated after the purchase and renovation of a former church.

1985: Redington Hall


He sees the completion of his first major addition to the University’s physical plant: Francis and Elizabeth Redington Hall, the University’s first suite-style residence.

1992: Library

Sees through to completion the five-story, 70-000-square-foot Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Memorial Library.

In 1992, The Catholic Light asked Fr. Panuska, whose educational background was in the sciences, specifically physiology, biology and cryobiology, if he regarded himself as a Renaissance man, considering he was responsible for the building of a library and a liberal-studies center and had placed fountains, sculptures and other artistic works throughout campus.

Fr. Panuska said he wished he was a Renaissance man but explained that his passion for environmental biology had put him always “in awe of the beauty of nature. … I really wanted this campus not just to have good teachers and good classrooms and good chapels,” he said. “I wanted it to be an environment that is inspirational.”

1993: McDade

The McDade Center for the Literary and Performing Arts, with its main theater modeled after Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, is completed. The Roche Wellness Center is dedicated, and the Gunster Student Center gets expanded dining facilities and a student activities center.

Admissions applications continued to rise, as did average Scholastic Aptitude Test scores of incoming students, and U.S. News & World Report recognized the school among the nation’s best universities. Many other accolades and rankings followed.

1998: Stepping Down


Father Panuska Steps Down from the presidency at the conclusion of the 1997-98 academic year.

He Celebrates 50 Years A Jesuit, retires as president of Scranton and becomes rector of the Jesuit community at the St. Isaac Jogues Community, the motherhouse of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, in Wernersville.

The First President Emeritus is so named by the Board of Trustees.

One of the University’s colleges is renamed in his honor — the J.A. Panuska, S.J., College of Professional Studies.

2004: He Returns


Father Panuska Returns to the University Campus Ministry Office (now Campus Ministries), devoting particular attention to providing spiritual direction and programming for University staff. He later takes up residence at health centers for older Jesuits, first at the St. Claude la Colombière community in Baltimore and then in Manresa Hall in Merion.

2017: His Passing

His Death Comes on the last day of February in 2017.

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