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In Memoriam: Gerald Cavanagh

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Gerald F. Cavanagh, S.J., the Charles T. Fisher III Chair of Business Ethics at University of Detroit Mercy, died November 8, 2022, at age 91. He had finished teaching his last class only two months before. “Jerry” to all, Cavanagh was one of the original cadre of professors who launched the Social Issues Division of the Academy of Management in the early 1970s and was an active participant in the Society of Business Ethics from its founding in 1980. Cavanagh delighted in the growth of the business ethics field and contributed to it greatly, publishing many articles and five books, including his widely used text American Business Values. Jerry had a 100-watt smile, a distinctive laugh, and unfailing energy. He always seemed to have time to counsel a colleague or comment enthusiastically on a newcomer’s work.

Cavanagh grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, received his bachelor’s degree from Case Western Reserve, and worked as an engineer. In 1953, he joined the Jesuit order and was ordained a priest in 1964. He received his doctorate in business from Michigan State University and taught at Wayne State University from 1970-1979. After one year as the Charles Dirksen Professor of Business Ethics at Santa Clara University in 1979-1980, he joined the faculty of the University of Detroit, a Jesuit school where he would spend the rest of his life, save one year as a visiting professor at Boston College. Jerry was an accomplished administrator, serving as department chair (several times), dean of the business school (twice), provost and chancellor. Dedicated particularly to advancing Jesuit education and its attention to business ethics, he served on the boards of trustees of seven other U.S. Jesuit universities during his career and received honorary doctorates from two. As University of Detroit provost, he engineered its merger with Mercy College, and helped install the Mercy president as the first woman leader of a U.S. Jesuit university. He was a lifelong advocate for women and people of color in leadership, having written his dissertation in the late 1960s on Blacks in the Industrial World.

Cavanagh’s full obituary is available here.