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Loyola University New Orleans Celebrates President Emeritus Fr. James Carter

Loyola press release - September 5, 2017

A Loyola and NOLA legend, Fr. Jim Carter is a recognized theologian, scientist and civic leader.

Loyola University New Orleans celebrates with great joy the life and contributions of President Emeritus and Gerald N. Gaston Distinguished Professor of Religion and Science the Rev. James C. Carter, S.J., Ph.D. H’95. A Loyola and NOLA legend beloved in both communities, Fr. Jim Carter is the longest-serving president in Loyola’s history. The entire Loyola community will celebrate his 90th birthday at a special celebration on campus Thursday.

“Fr. Carter has dedicated more than 50 years of his life to Loyola University New Orleans and is a beloved member of this community, a passionate scholar, an outstanding leader, a mentor, and a friend to all,” said University President the Rev. Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., Ph.D. “Every day on campus and beyond, he continues to teach, inspire, and share his contagious love of life and learning.”

Fr. Carter’s journey as a Jesuit and his university life began 73 years ago when he was a student at Loyola, and his university career — which continues to this day — spans 57 years, including 21 years as university president.

In June 2017, Dr. Justin Nystrom, associate professor of history and director of both the Center for the Study of New Orleans and the Documentary and Oral History Studio at Loyola, interviewed Fr. Carter for a Loyola student oral history project titled Fr. Carter: Five Lessons from a Lifetime at Loyola.

In the 10-minute video, Fr. Carter shares some of his experiences with desegregation; his lifelong passion for physics and facts — and how they relate to his faith; his personal journey to becoming university president; reflections on the Jesuit identity and Ignatian ideals; a love of teaching that lasts to this day; and the value of a Jesuit education, as well as the importance of giving back.

Although they are hardly his only accomplishments, he cites among his most cherished achievements the university’s work to preserve its Jesuit identity; development and growth of the university’s College of Music and Fine Arts; and the Music and Communications building built during his presidency, which can be seen by drivers along St. Charles Avenue “giving people an introduction to who we are and where are.” He also thanks the many people who have worked to improve and grow Loyola over the years. Under Fr. Carter’s leadership, Loyola’s campus saw tremendous growth and development of faculty.

Fr. Carter joined Loyola as a student in 1944 before joining the Jesuits. After completing his novitiate at the Jesuit seminary in Grand Coteau, La., he earned an undergraduate degree from Spring Hill College, a master’s degree from Fordham University and a Ph.D. in physics from Catholic University. He returned to Loyola in 1960 and taught in the Physics Department for 10 years before transitioning to his new role as provost and academic vice president.

In 1974, he assumed the presidency of the university, where he laid the groundwork for the J. Edgar and Louise S. Monroe Library and established the Jesuit identity task force, which he considers his most important achievement.

In 1984, New Orleans Business said of Fr. Carter’s impact on the campus: “Loyola has changed its public face from serene to scrapping and turned its cerebral president Fr. James C. Carter, S.J. from an introspective scholar to a prominent point man – the Lee Iacocca of higher education.”

Fr. Carter served as university president until 1995, when he was awarded an honorary degree from Loyola, one of the university’s highest honors. He is still a familiar and friendly face on campus, where he teaches a popular course on faith, science, and religion and serves as honorary chair of the Faith in the Future campaign, the most successful and ambitious capital campaign in university history.

The entire Loyola community will celebrate Fr. Carter’s birthday in the Orleans Room of the Danna Student Center following the Mass of the Holy Spirit, a 500-year-old tradition at Jesuit schools and universities around the world. A joy-filled mass of song, dance and prayer, the Mass of the Holy Spirit at Loyola University New Orleans is exceptionally dramatic and beautiful, replete with performances from the university’s College of Music and Fine Arts.

This year’s Mass will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7 at Holy Name of Jesus Church, 6367 St. Charles Ave. Fr. Wildes is celebrant. Fr. Carter will give the homily. All 11 a.m. classes will be cancelled so that the entire Loyola community may attend. Students are encouraged to wear school colors. The Loyola community will celebrate Fr. Carter's 90th birthday with a light reception in the narthex of the church immediately following the Mass.

And in keeping with his capital campaign work and belief in “giving back,” Loyola will celebrate with a special call in honor of Fr. Carter’s 90th birthday. Titled $90 for 90, the campaign will run Sept. 6-8 on social media and seeks to engage alumni. An anonymous donor has committed funds to match the first 90 gifts of $90. Gifts of any size are welcome.

Click here to see the video Fr. Carter - Five Lessons Learned from a Lifetime at Loyola University New Orleans.

Click here to see a preview of Loyola’s annual Mass of the Holy Spirit.