Remembering Joseph McGowan, S.J.

January 5, 2021

Update: Jan. 14, 2021 | President Sundborg today announced that a virtual prayer service and reception for Father McGowan will be held Jan. 21 and invited all to contribute memories and words of thanks at the In Loving Memory of Fr. Joseph McGowan, S.J. page.

Dear Faculty, Staff and Alumni of Seattle University,

Joseph O. McGowan, S.J., long-time minister and leader at Seattle University, died on Dec. 23 at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, CA. Joseph, who was 80, died from cancer and complications of COVID-19. He was a Jesuit for 59 years. The university is planning a special memorial for Fr. McGowan and we will be communicating about that shortly.

Joseph McGowan, S. J. is one of the seven Jesuits who died during the month of December with complications of COVID-19 at the Los Gatos community, which serves as the senior long-term care community for the Jesuits of the U.S. West Province. In praying for Joseph, let us also pray for the Jesuits of this province in the time of their loss.

Joseph is remembered for his service at Seattle U from 1974 to1999 as Director of Campus Ministry, Director of the Office of Minority Affairs (now Multicultural Affairs), Residential Life Minister and Campus Minister for Peace and Justice. He inaugurated the Archbishop Hunthausen Resource Center and launched the Archbishop Hunthausen Award, which is given at graduation. More than anything Fr. Joseph McGowan was an affirming presence on campus to students and colleagues, empowering them and giving special encouragement to persons of color and to women. He carried out an informal ministry that touched the lives of so many and made a life-long difference for alumni.

Born in Houston and a graduate of Seattle Prep and Seattle U, Joseph was a leader in the African American community in the Seattle area. After his 25 years at Seattle U, he taught at O’Dea High School, served at St. Joseph’s Parish on Capitol Hill and for many years was a chaplain at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. His ministry in Tacoma also included Marriage Encounter for couples in discernment of this sacramental commitment. 

We remember Joseph with great affection and gratitude. We miss him and we pray for him, his friends and family.


Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.