Fr. Joseph Butler OFM


8th President of St. Bonaventure


“In this strong but gentle and unassuming figure we have a type of the finest and best of the Franciscan tradition.  Of a commanding intellect and most winning personality, he drew to himself, from the youngest student to the most exalted of the alumni and he held them by the power of his gifts of mind and heart.” 
       -Father Adalbert Callahan, from his book: Medieval Francis in America, The Story of Eighty Years.           


Joseph Butler was born on August 13,  1838 in Galbally, County Tipperary, Ireland.  He remained in Ireland until the early 1860’s when he left for New York City to pursue a career in business.  While working as a successful mercantile businessman, he felt a calling to lead a religious life.  This led him to become a Franciscan Brother.  Brother Joseph Butler taught at St. Francis College in Brooklyn for twelve years.  Throughout these years he constantly felt a higher calling to join the priesthood.  In 1876,  Butler entered the Franciscan novitiate at St. Bonaventure.  By 1880, Joseph Butler pronounced his vows and was ordained a priest.  Shortly after joining the priesthood, Butler was named Vice-President of St. Bonaventure College.  Seven years later, Fr. Joseph Butler was named president.
Fr. Butler ‘s goal during his entire presidency was to improve the university and by all accounts, he succeeded.  Fr. Butler’s first project was the creation of “Alumni Hall” in 1887.   This building was a multi-purpose building that fulfilled many of the needs by students and faculty.  The basement was designed to be a gymnasium.  The first floor was to be a library and the second floor was an amusement hall for recreation.  After this, Father Joe Butler began enlarging the monastery, tripling its size by the time of it’s completion.  Father Butler saw the renovation of the church as increasingly important.  For the next few years the church was completely renovated; large fresco paintings decorated the church ceilings and walls and stained glass windows were placed throughout the building.  Father Butler’s next project was the construction of a new seminary wing that was attached to the original building.  Shortly after the completion of that new wing, the main college building was destroyed by fire in 1908.  Father Butler made it his new goal to rebuild the main building.  Butler directed the construction and the result was the building we know today as De La Roche Hall.   
    Soon after the completion of the new college building, known at the time as Lynch Hall,  Father Joseph Butler resigned as President of St. Bonaventure because of poor health.  Six months later, on July 25, 1911 Father Joseph Butler passed away in his sleep.  Five years later, St. Bonaventure completed Butler Gymnasium in the late President’s honor.  “Father Joe,” as he was known around campus, always stressed the importance of athletics as well as academics.  The new gymnasium was a fitting tribute to one of the school’s most beloved leaders.  Butler’s accomplishments and legacy as president can be seen throughout the campus.  Today, a statue of Father "Joe" Butler stands in front of Friedsam Memorial Library.  The statue, Butler Gymnasium and De La Roche Hall are all reminders of what a great man and President St. Bonaventure University had in Father Joseph Butler.   



Carey, Alfred. Fr. Joseph Butler.  Bonalumnus. St. Bonaventure, Ny.

Father Joe's Boys.  Allegany, Ny.  1962.

St. Bonaventure University Archives Presidents Files

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This page was created by Max Halady for History 419 in the Spring 2011 Semester.


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