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"Charles O'Reilly; leader at UAlbany"


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Charles O'Reilly; leader at UAlbany


By PAUL GRONDAHL, Staff writer

First published: Friday, April 25, 2008


ALBANY -- Charles O'Reilly, dean of the University at Albany's School of Social Welfare beginning in 1968, who helped guide growth that earned the graduate program a national ranking, died at his home in Wilmette, Ill., on April 15. He was 86.


O'Reilly left UAlbany in 1976 to return to his alma mater as dean of the school of social work at Loyola University in his native Chicago.


He was credited with raising UAlbany's academic profile, increasing the number of students and earning the School of Social Welfare national accreditation. He was later promoted to acting vice president for academic affairs.


O'Reilly was a calming presence on a volatile campus during civil rights and Vietnam War protests.


His wife, Rosella, recalled students holding a sit-in and seizing the administration building at UAlbany. Her husband -- a popular, youthful-looking professor -- waded into their angry midst and sat with the students through the night, calmly listening to their complaints for hours.


Morning came and O'Reilly, who grew up in a working-class household, appealed to the students to leave. He reminded them that low-paid secretaries couldn't earn a living if the students continued to blockade the building.


"The kids just all got up and left quietly," his wife said.


She said her husband came to UAlbany, which had failed its accreditation review, because he loved a challenge.


"He liked to have a goal to strive toward," she said.


Kevin O'Reilly recalled that his father was raised in a devout Catholic family of Irish immigrants, which informed his attitudes toward social justice and labor issues.


He described his father's principled stands, particularly an incident in 1942, the year he graduated from Loyola and enlisted in the Army. He led a Loyola student boycott of a Chicago roller-rink that discriminated against blacks.


"Those Catholic values defined the choices he made for his family and career his entire life," his son said.


In addition to his wife and son, O'Reilly is survived by a brother, four other children and 10 grandchildren. He was buried at Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery in Northbrook, Ill.

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