In Memoriam: Joseph Reilly '55

Joseph Reilly

Joseph J. “Joe” Reilly Jr. ’55, of Waltham, MA, was born on April 24, 1931. He was a former Special Assistant to the President and Vice President for Student Affairs at Holy Cross, a longtime, active member of the Holy Cross Alumni Association (HCAA) and past Chairman of the Bishop Healy Committee. He passed away peacefully, September 9, 2014, at the Lexington Health Care Center surrounded by his family after a period of declining health.

Born in New York City, Joseph was a graduate of Xavier High School, a military school in Manhattan, where he was named Colonel of the Regiment at age 17 during his senior year. He then attended a Jesuit seminary for almost two years before receiving his BA in English Literature from Holy Cross and becoming the President of the Class of 1955. Later, he earned his MA in Religious Education in 1970 from Emmanuel College in Boston. 

After graduation, Joseph married the late Elinor M. Flynn with whom he had 7 children and began a 35-year career in Human Resources. Later in his life, Joseph went on to work for various non-profits, serving as the first Executive Director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference in Boston. His other passions included teaching religious education to high school seniors for 25 years, speaking to many Catholic groups throughout New England and holding leadership positions in the Right to Life Movement.

Established in 1979, Joseph served as the Chairman of the Bishop Healy Committee for many years. Between 1997-2005, he returned to campus to serve as the Special Assistant to the President and the Vice President for Student Affairs, committing his efforts to the work of increasing diversity at Holy Cross. In addition, Joseph served as the Past president of the Holy Cross Club of Boston and received the Crusader of the Year Award in 1981. Elected senior class president as a student at Holy Cross, Mr. Reilly was chosen to be the Class’s Lifetime President in 1985.

In recognition of his dedication to the College, the Office of Multicultural Education presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2001, at the ALANA (African-American, Latin American, Asian-American and Native American) Baccalaureate Banquet. Beginning in 2002, this award has been presented annually to two fourth-year students “who exemplify the ideals of Holy Cross and the caring and loving example of Joe Reilly.”

A Holy Cross Class Chair, Class Agent, member of the President’s Council, Admissions adviser and Varsity Club member, he held numerous leadership and committee memberships in the HCAA. His involvement included serving as a past president, alumni board director and member of the class reunion; book prize; budget and finance; and nominations and elections committees. In 1987, the HCAA honored Mr. Reilly with the In Hoc Signo Award, recognizing the generous donation of his time and talents to Holy Cross. 

He was also honored in 2008, during the 40th Anniversary celebration of the Black Student Union and, again, in Fall of 2011, during an ALANA dinner that included celebration of the 15th Anniversary of Odyssey—a one-week orientation program open to all first-year ALANA and international students, as an introduction to the Holy Cross experience. The Bishop Healy Committee and the Office of Student Affairs also recognized Joseph during Fall Homecoming of 2012, “for his dedication, leadership, service and living the mission.”