Fr Patrick Healy

Father Patrick Healy

Did you know that Georgetown University’s second president was a black Catholic?

Patrick, as he was known, was born into slavery in Macon, Georgia, to the Irish-American plantation owner Michael Healy and his bi-racial slave Mary Eliza. Because of the law of slavery that children took the status of the mother, Patrick and his siblings were legally considered slaves, although they were three-quarters or more European in ancestry.

Following graduation from Holy Cross, Patrick entered the Jesuits as a novice and later became ordained. In later years he became the second President of Gegorgetown. Patrick Healy's influence on Georgetown was so far-reaching that he is often referred to as the school's "second founder," following Archbishop John Carroll.

Healy helped transform the small nineteenth-century college into a major university for the twentieth century. He is credited for modernizing the curriculum by requiring courses in the sciences, particularly chemistry and physics. He expanded and upgraded the schools of law and medicine. He became one of the most renowned Jesuit priests of his time in that role. The most visible result of Healy's presidency was the construction of the university's flagship building which was named in his honor as Healy Hall.

Healy left the College in 1882 and traveled extensively through the United States and Europe, often in the company of his brother James. In 1908 he returned to the campus infirmary, where he died. He was buried on the grounds of the university in the Jesuit cemetery.