Rev. Jim Joyce, S.J., who served as the 26th President of Saint Peter’s Prep from 1990-94, died Friday morning at age 77. Fr. Joyce also taught history at Prep from 1969-71 while he was a Jesuit scholastic, served as an assistant football and track coach, and later served on Prep’s Board of Trustees.
Fr. Joyce’s time as president of Prep was fairly brief; in a recent interview, he explained that was by design: “When I was asked to apply by the Provincial, the intent was that it could be for just a few years during which time they would look for someone with more educational administrative experience than I had. I certainly committed to do my best. I loved the school and the students…”
His impact in that relatively short tenure clearly reflects that commitment. Prep’s academic offerings continued to grow both in breadth and depth. Other growth areas included collaboration and communication with Prep’s Board of Trustees, the modernization of Prep’s financial aid program and the introduction of Presidential Scholarships (now known as Ignatian Scholarships). He was a staunch supporter of Prep’s great efforts to codify a commitment to what Fr. Joyce later described as “unity in diversity” by addressing bullying and hate speech in the student handbook. In his own words: “[I]t was important to face up to and denounce this type of behavior as absolutely wrong and not in accord with the values or the spirit of the Jesuit education upon which Saint Peter’s Prep was centered…it wasn’t just a matter of theory, but something that affected the reality of peoples’ lives.” This was the era when Prep welcomed its first lay principal, Jack Raslowsky, ’79, and when the courtyard between the English Building and Warren Street grew to its current size.
Fr. Joyce also oversaw the launch of Prep’s first modern capital campaign, Keys to the Future, which would continue into the tenure of his successor, Rev. Jim Keenan, S.J. In a very real way, this was the origin of Prep’s campus as we know it today, as the school–with support from alumni, parents, and friends–began to address the need for its eclectic mix of historic and (relatively) newer facilities to keep pace with the growth of academic, athletic, and co-curricular offerings.
Finally, one piece of Fr. Joyce’s legacy as Prep president will be familiar to anyone who has walked along Warren Street in the past 30 years. Once again, in his own words: “The most recognizable change in the physical plant during that era arose purely by chance from just staring out the window at the four ugly bricked-up windows of the gym that overlooked the newly renovated outdoor rec area. Four windows, four letters in PREP!” And thus an icon of the Prep campus was born.
Current Prep President Michael Gomez, Ed.D., ’91 recalled a memory from his time as a Prep student, during Fr. Joyce’s tenure as president. “In addition to Fr. Joyce being so supportive since I began my own service as president, I vividly remember a moment from my senior year, and a lesson I hope we can still help our students learn today. After a tough loss in a football game against, I think, North Bergen, all of us in the stands started leaving with heads down. Suddenly we heard Fr. Joyce, who was standing behind the student section, yell for us to stay and sing Pride & Glory. ‘You are Saint Peter’s Prep!’ he said.”