Funeral mass conducted for former Seton Hill President Boyle
Seton Hill University President Emerita JoAnne W. Boyle was eulogized on Wednesday as a great leader and visionary who transformed the university while imparting a love of learning that could ignite a hunger “for knowledge in everyone she met.”
In an 85-minute funeral Mass celebrated Wednesday morning on the Greensburg campus, former Pennsylvania first lady Michele Ridge, chair of the school's board of trustees, spoke of Boyle's “incredible life and the tremendous contributions ... made to this university, to this city, county and commonwealth she loved.”
Boyle, 77, who graduated in 1957 from what was then Seton Hill College and later chaired the school's English department before serving as president for 26 years, died on Friday.
More than 400 people — friends, colleagues and past and present students — packed St. Joseph Chapel to honor the woman responsible for more than doubling the size of the once-tiny, all-female liberal arts school, making it a co-educational center for arts, business and health care education.
In January, Boyle announced plans to resign. Since then, little has been made public about the nature of the illness that would claim her life.
But in the face of that illness, Boyle's “strength, dignity and grace” was “an inspiration to us all,” Ridge said.
Boyle's seven children and several of her grandchildren participated in the Mass, with family members serving as pallbearers, reading Bible passages and bearing the gifts for communion.
Monsignor David Rubino, who served as the special assistant to Boyle a decade ago, recalled that more than anything, she loved to be called “a great teacher.”
But he remembered her fierce determination during a successful fight to obtain state money for a now-opened $21 million theater arts center in downtown Greensburg.
Rubino said that Boyle, who earned a master's degree from Harvard and a doctorate from Pitt, was inclusionary, always focused on “creating an atmosphere of inclusion for all races, genders and orientations.”
“She was passionately involved in the very lifeblood of Seton Hill. She was a pencil in the hands of God, writing us love letters for life,” Rubino said.
Rubino joked that Boyle had a habit of being late because she was busy dealing with someone and did not want to show them disrespect, but he was certain that “tonight the streets of heaven will be crowded with one more late angel.”
Because of limited seating in the chapel, students and alumni could view the funeral Mass through live-streaming in several overflow rooms in the Administration Building as well as through the university website.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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