WELSH, REV. ROBERT J., S.J. (June 6, 1936 - August 30, 2018) left his mark on multiple generations of students at ST. IGNATIUS HIGH SCHOOL, Cleveland’s Jesuit High School for young men. Serving in a variety of capacities, including Development Director and President, he spearheaded effective fundraising strategies to maintain the school’s near-west side presence and broaden scholarship opportunities for inner-city students.  

Robert Welsh was born in Cleveland to Walter J. and Elizabeth (Keating) Welsh. Fr. Welsh graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 1954 and joined the Society of Jesus that fall. He earned a bachelor's degree and master’s degrees in history and theology from Loyola University Chicago in 1959, 1965, and 1968 respectively. A licentiate in Philosophy from West Baden College in Indiana followed, and a Licentiate in sacred theology from Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY.  He was ordained as a priest on June 14, 1967.  

During his years as a candidate to the Society of Jesus, Fr. Welsh returned to Saint Ignatius in 1968 as Chairman of the Theology Department and Director of Student Spiritual Counseling and also taught Latin at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School.  After completing the final period of formation at St Beuno's Jesuit Spirituality Centre in North Wales, UK, Fr. Welsh was appointed Development Director of St. Ignatius. In 1974 he initiated the school’s first capital campaign. Discussions had been underway to move Saint Ignatius outside the City of Cleveland where it had been located since 1886. The $7.5 million campaign that he spearheaded enabled the school to stay in its near-west side location. He also launched the first Annual Fund in order to provide scholarships for students in need.

Fr. Welsh was named President of St. Ignatius in 1979, a position he held until 2000. As president, he prioritized the spiritual life of the school community, supporting a well-staffed campus ministry and prayer retreats for students, faculty, and parents. Etched in an outdoor display on the campus mall is a saying of his: “The purpose of our education is to give a young man the tools whereby he can answer the question ‘What does God want from me?’” He enlisted the support of Cleveland businessman and philanthropist MURLAN J. MURPHY, SR., a St. Ignatius alumnus, to build Saint Mary’s Chapel on the school campus. He said of the project, "No boy should come to school without passing a church.”

Fr. Welsh received honorary doctorates--in Humane Letters in 1995 from the College of the Holy Cross and in Religious Studies in 1996 from JOHN CARROLL UNIVERSITY, where he served on the Board of Trustees. He also received the WALKS OF LIFE AWARD from the Irish American Archives Society in 1998.  He is buried at All Saints Cemetery in Chardon, OH.

Daniel Brennan and David Patrick Ryan


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