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Father Edmund Joyce dies at the age of 87

Matt Bramanti | Monday, May 3, 2004

Father Edmund Joyce, Notre Dame’s executive vice president emeritus, died Sunday at Holy Cross House at the age of 87.

Near the end, Joyce lay dying in the company of lifelong friend and longtime colleague University President Emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh. Late Saturday night, Hesburgh administered last rites to the ailing priest, and they prayed the Rosary together. Joyce had been in poor health since suffering a stroke in his Corby Hall residence in September 2002.

“He never really recovered,” Hesburgh said Sunday afternoon. “It’s been a rough year and a half.”

In an emotional press conference, Hesburgh marked his friend’s death, saying he and Joyce were “like brothers.”

“He was a fine priest, he was a wonderful friend, he was a South Carolinian gentleman,” Hesburgh said. “He was a real moral anchor and a spiritual leader.”

The former president added that while he was out of town, he had confidence in Joyce to oversee the University’s operation.

“When I was away from Notre Dame, I never had to call back,” Hesburgh said. “I knew he was in charge and he was very capable.”

Athletic director Kevin White said that while Joyce’s contributions to Irish athletics are often best remembered, his service to Notre Dame was multifaceted.

“He was the most revered, respected intercollegiate athletics statesman of the last century,” White said. “But first and foremost, he was a phenomenal priest and a loyal and devoted member of the CSC.”

Joyce was born in British Honduras, now known as Belize, on Jan. 26, 1917. After graduating from Spartanburg (S.C.) High School, he came to Notre Dame, where he received a degree in accounting in 1937. He returned to Spartanburg, where he worked for the accounting firm of L.C. Dodge, becoming a certified public accountant.

In 1945 he began to study for the priesthood in Washington, D.C., and was ordained June 3, 1949 in Sacred Heart Church on campus. Joyce was then named to Notre Dame’s administrative corps, becoming assistant vice president for business affairs. After a one-year stint at Oxford University in England, he returned as vice president for business affairs in 1951. Joyce became Hesburgh’s executive vice president the next year, a position he retained for 35 years.

During his tenure, he rose to national prominence in the NCAA as a voice for integrity in college sports.

Former fencing coach Mike DeCicco, who served as Notre Dame’s first director of academic advising for student-athletes during Joyce’s tenure, said Joyce was devoted to ensuring the education of Notre Dame’s athletes.

“He wanted to make sure they were students first and athletes second,” DeCicco said, also characterizing Joyce as fiercely devoted to the University.

“He was very demanding,” DeCicco said. “He told me [not to] make a mistake that brings Notre Dame down in any respect.”

Joyce held several honorary degrees, including one from Notre Dame. The University’s Athletic and Convocation Center is named in his honor.

University President Father Edward Malloy will preside over a wake service Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Viewing will begin at 3 p.m Tuesday. Father David Tyson, provincial superior for the Indiana Province of the Congregation of Holy Cross, will preside over a funeral mass at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Hesburgh will give a homily at the funeral mass, fulfilling a pledge with Joyce that the man who survived his counterpart would preach at the deceased’s funeral.

While the grieving Hesburgh said he prays for Joyce, he’s confident that his friend will live on.

“I’m not worried about a guy as good and holy as Ned,” Hesburgh said, “who lived as good a life.”