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Father James F. Keenan, SJ, 1937-2023


Father James F. Keenan, SJ, who served as president of Canisius High School from 1989-1994, passed away Aug. 13, 2023, at the age of 86.

Father James F. Keenan, SJ

Father Keenan was born on Jan. 9, 1937, in the Jackson Heights area of Queens. He attended Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn, before transferring to the St. Philip Neri School in Haverhill, Massachusetts, prior to entering the Society of Jesus at St. Andrew on Hudson, on Aug. 14, 1956.

Following his studies in philosophy at Loyola Seminary in Shrub Oak, he received a degree in theology from Woodstock College in Woodstock, Maryland, and was ordained a priest on June 12, 1969, at Fordham University.Following his ordination, Father Keenan began serving at Xavier High School in New York City, where he had taught history and English as a scholastic. He was first the assistant headmaster while earning a degree in education from Columbia University, and then headmaster. In 1977, he became president for four years.

In 1981, Father Keenan was named president of McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, where he remained for eight years. He was then missioned for a year as the director of the Jesuit Seminary and Mission Bureau at the St. Ignatius Loyola Jesuit Community in New York. In 1989, Father Keenan moved to Buffalo, to become president of Canisius High School, serving for five years. It was then on to Jersey City where St. Peter’s Prep was the next Jesuit high school for Father Keenan to take the reins as president. He remained there for 12 years.

After a quick and much deserved sabbatical, Father Keenan served for a year as assistant to the director of Nativity Mission Center for St. Ignatius School and Brooklyn Jesuit Prep.

The thousands of students, alumni, parents and friends whom Father Keenan so selflessly served for decades in Jesuit secondary education, made his final mission one of his most successful and beloved – assistant for advancement for his Jesuit province and director of donor relations. For 15 years, Father Keenan helped raise millions of dollars for the Jesuits of the New York, Northeast, and USA East Provinces. Personally calling hundreds of benefactors on their birthdays each year, sending thousands of hand-written thank you notes, and hosting countless fundraising events, Father Keenan was the face of the Jesuits for so many on the East Coast. On more weekends than not, he continued to celebrate weddings and baptize newborns, whether he was needed around the corner or across the country.


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