Kenneth Slattery

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
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Kenneth Francis Slattery CM, Ph.D., was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 12, 1921. Received to the Congregation of the Mission, in Eastern Province on June 17, 1941. Ordained a priest May 22, 1948, after studies at Mary Immaculate Seminary in Northampton, Pa. Next he continued studies at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.. There, in 1952 he earned doctorate in Philosophy.

Right after graduating from C.U.A. he was assigned to Niagara University. Two years later, in 1954 became Dean of Studies at Mary Immaculate Seminary in Northampton. In 1956 transfered to St. John's University in New York where he was philosophy professor until 1961. Next he returned to Niagara University to serve as Dean of the Graduate School and the School of Education. In 1965 he was appointed 19th President of Niagara University and hold this prestigious post till 1976.

As president, he guided the university to a new level of quality and achievement despite tensions created by the war in Vietnam and the cultural revolution that was under way in the United States. In the Slattery decade, O'Shea and Seton halls were built to accommodate a dramatic growth in Niagara's student body, which increased from 1,900 in 1965 to 3,200 in 1975. During these years, the College of Nursing moved into the newly constructed Dunleavy Hall and the Institute of Transportation, Travel and Tourism, the predecessor of today's College of Hospitality and Tourism Management, was established.

After leaving the presidency of Niagara University, Fr Slattery continued his career in Catholic education at St. John's University as vice president for communications, then moved to the Staten Island campus, where he held a variety of administrative positions, including Academic Vice President, Vice President for Campus Ministry, and Dean of Notre Dame College. He became a full-time member of the faculty of St. John's College in 1989 and served as Chair of the Department of Philosophy before retiring in 1991. He continued to teach as an adjunct at St. John's and was faculty member of Saint John Neumann Residence & Hall discernment and formation center for the Diocese of New York in St. John's Seminary (Dunwoodie), Yonkers, N.Y.

"Father Ken Slattery was a lifelong educator who served Niagara University very well," says NU's current president, the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M. "He loved philosophy, so after his presidency he devoted more than 20 years to teaching and administration at St. John's. Our community had great regard for this philosopher-president, who devoted his entire priesthood to Catholic education."

On May 17, 1998, Niagara University granted Father Slattery the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in recognition of his long and distinguished service to Catholic higher education and to mark his 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. He was honored again with other past presidents of N.U. in September 2006 as the university began its sesquicentennial celebration.

Father Slattery was the first recipient of the Dunleavy Award, created by Niagara to recognize high personal achievement, outstanding charitable service and consistent loyalty to Niagara University. He was a trustee emeritus of Molloy College in Rockville Centre, New York.

Among his other honors was an honorary degree from St. John's University, bestowed in 1969. He was also adopted into the Tuscarora Indian Nation in Lewiston in 1966 and given the name Ro-Te-Heh-Thet, which means "Dependable." He published many articles in National Review and Homiletic and Pastoral Review.

After receiving permission from his superior, in 1977 Father Slattery began saying Mass in the Recreation Hall at Belmont Park on Sundays and holy days. He was a big fan of racing, and liked to bet a maximum of $2 on horses.

“I don’t see any incongruity in it at all,” Slattery told the New York Times in a 1998 interview. “It’s appropriate for a priest to be around stables. After all, Christ was born in a stable.

“There’s nothing morally wrong with [gambling]. It’s morally good, but it has to be used well. It’s just like the liquor industry. I support the liquor industry if I have a martini. But at the same time, I’m recognizing it can be abused terribly and can ruin lives. I recognize that gambling can do that to people, too. But it’s the misuse, the abuse, that‘s wrong. Not the activity itself. It can be very legitimate recreation.”

Kenneth F. Slattery died on early April 21, 2009 at St. Catherine's Infirmary at the Vincentian Eastern Province Motherhouse in Germantown, Philadelphia. He had been a patient there for the last month of an extended battle against cancer. Burial took place in the Vincentian cemetery at St. Joseph's College in Princeton, N.J. on April 25, 2009.

read also: "Vincentian Tradition in the Social Apostolate"