Please remember in your prayers Dr. James Shannon
Please remember in your prayers Dr. James P. Shannon, 82, a former president of the University of St. Thomas. He suffered a stroke at his home in Plymouth Wednesday night, Aug. 27, and died the following day at a St. Louis Park Hospital.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5, at Holy Name of Jesus Church, 155 County Road 24, Medina. Visitation will be held at the church one hour before the service.
Born in 1921 in South St. Paul, Shannon completed his undergraduate work in classical languages and history at the then-College of St. Thomas in 1941. He completed the four-year program in three years, graduated summa cum laude and received the Mr. Tommy Award. He later earned a master’s in English from the University of Minnesota, a doctorate in history from Yale University and a law degree from the University of New Mexico. He entered the St. Paul Seminary in 1941 and was ordained a priest in 1946.
He returned to St. Thomas in 1954 to teach history and two years later, at the age of 35, became the youngest president in St. Thomas history. He held the position for 10 years. He was auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis from 1965 to 1969, when he left the priesthood and started a career in philanthropy.
Five years ago he wrote an autobiography, Reluctant Dissenter, that examined the turmoil of the church in the 1960s and his personal turmoil in resigning as bishop.
His interest in social justice came at an early age. As a St. Thomas student he joined an effort to prepare a refuge for the destitute on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. During his presidency at St. Thomas he emphasized a values-based education, and he joined the freedom marchers in Selma, Ala. After leaving the priesthood he was an executive of the Minneapolis Foundation, General Mills Foundation and the Minnesota Council on Foundations. For his life’s work on social issues, the University of St. Thomas presented him the Monsignor John A. Ryan Award in 1991. St. Thomas also presented him a Centennial Medal in 1986 to recognize his contributions to the college, including his work with the Program for Great Teaching that was made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation.
The citation for his John A. Ryan Award said Shannon was “not just an optimist, but a person of hope that there can be and will be a better tomorrow for all people, and your tireless efforts on behalf of the less fortunate serve as an inspiration to us all.”
Father Dennis Dease, president of St. Thomas, said Shannon “began the transformation of St. Thomas from a college into the urban university it has become.
“He was a man of faith and a quintessential gentleman who was gracious, possessed a keen intellect, had personal charm and a quick wit, and was a wonderful raconteur,” Dease said.
“He also was a giving person who put his talents to work in service of the community,” Dease added. “He cared about the world and he left it a little better place. Jim Shannon will be deeply missed.”
Shannon is survived by his wife, Ruth.