The Reverend Lawrence R. McHugh came the Wheeling in 1954 from Georgetown University. He originally assumed the position of vice-rector of the burgeoning Jesuit community, but soon discovered that he was to be the man responsible for creating what would later become Wheeling College.
Working with Bishop John J. Swint, Fr. McHugh was entrusted with the task of creating a college from 61 acres, three partially completed buildings, a handful of associates, and a budget of two million dollars. Building the College was not as an easy task, as costs mounted above the $2 million budget. McHugh and Swint consistently disagreed about priorities for the project. While McHugh insisted on modern, fully equipped laboratories, the Bishop thought a gymnasium would be more beneficial.
Ultimately, McHugh's mission was successful and the college accepted its first 91 students (a year after McHugh's arrival) on Sept. 25, 1955. McHugh was named the first president and vice rector of the college by the Rev. John Baptist Janssens, S.J., the Father General of the Society of Jesus. At the first commencement in June 1959, 20 women and 31 men graduated. The speaker was Rev. Edward Bunn of Georgetown University. Fr. Bunn told McHugh, "Fifty years from now, in the history of Wheeling College, you will be remembered as its first President...however, only the ones who have borne the heat and burdens of the daily struggles will know all that went into its founding." In 1959, McHugh was succeeded as president by Rev. William F. Troy, S.J.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1907, Lawrence R. McHugh graduated from Loyola University in 1927. On August 14, 1927, he entered the Society of Jesus novitiate at St. Andrews-on-the-Hudson. McHugh also earned a Masters degree in Philosophy from Woodstock University and served as regent (teaching scholastic) at St. Peter's Preparatory School in Jersey City. He began his theology studies in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1936. Three years later, he was expelled by the Nazis, shortly after their annexation of Austria.
After ordination as a Jesuit priest on June 21, 1939, he completed his Licentiate in Scared Theology, the highest degree available in the study of theology. McHugh served as counselor at Georgetown University until the outbreak of World War II. During the war, McHugh had a distinguished career as a Navy chaplain on two aircraft carriers in the Pacific and flew dive-bombers at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida. After his discharge from the military, he returned to Georgetown as director of admissions and assistant dean of studies of the undergraduate schools.
Once his mission at Wheeling College was completed in 1959, he became director of the Greater St. Joseph's Scholarship Fund and assistant to the president at St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia. From 1959 to 1969, he served as vice president for college relations at St. Joseph's before becoming chaplain at Philadelphia's Miserecordia Hospital.
Rev. McHugh, S.J. retired in 1983 and died on April 8, 1988 at the age of 80.
Information compiled from:
"Wheeling Jesuit University Presidential Inauguration" by Paul Orr
The Wheeling Intelligencer, April 9, 1988
Wheeling Jesuit University Website (www.wju.edu)
The Wheeling News Register, April 9, 1988