Leo J. Daly, S.J., GSAS ’56, a former campus ministry director and assistant alumni chaplain who was beloved by students and maintained decades-long friendships with many alumni, died on Jan. 14 at the Murray-Weigel Hall retirement home after experiencing a short bout of pneumonia and a gradual decline from salivary gland cancer. He was 93.

Father Daly with an alumna
Father Daly and Susan Mallie, FCRH ’87, at Father Daly’s Fordham Jubilee in 2018. Photo courtesy of Mallie

“He was like another dad to me. He befriended, loved, kept up with, and supported me,” said Catherine McGovern, FCRH ’81, echoing the sentiments of alumni of many generations. 

Father Daly served as director of Campus Ministry at Fordham from 1980 to 1987. Later, he became assistant alumni chaplain, providing pastoral support to Fordham’s global community of more than 200,000 alumni from 2015 to 2019. This included attending alumni receptions and retreats, as well as writing seasonal prayers to alumni, often with a personal and poignant touch. He also served as chaplain to the women’s basketball team from 2017 to 2019, earning recognition from Fordham Athletics for his work. (Fun fact: His old Campus Ministry office served as the office of the fictional Father Damien Karras in the movie The Exorcist, said Beth Tarpey Evans, FCRH ’84, who once worked in Father Daly’s office. “He was so proud of that! He left that nameplate on the door,” Evans said.) 

Leo Daly and the women's basketball team eating frozen yogurt together
Father Daly personally picked up frozen yogurt on Arthur Avenue as a gift for the women’s basketball team in 2019. Photo courtesy of McGovern

A Second Father

A bride and groom standing in front of a church alter, with Father Daly in the background
Father Daly marrying Catherine McGovern, FCRH ’81, to her husband in the University Church. Photo courtesy of McGovern

What alumni remember most about Father Daly is the way he cared for them in the same spirit as a father, comforting them during difficult times and rejoicing with them during the most important moments of their lives, said those who knew him. He was a gregarious, fun, witty, and kind priest who took great pride in their accomplishments, said McGovern, who is part of a circle of women that fondly refer to themselves as “Leo’s Ladies.” 

He traveled across the country, marrying, baptizing, and blessing thousands of people—sometimes multiple generations in a single family, said his niece, Elizabeth Shortal Aptilon, FCLC ’85, GABELLI ’90. 

“You don’t meet that many people who are genuinely good people. There aren’t that many people that stay in touch with you for decades. But my uncle was someone who really maintained lifelong friends,” said Aptilon. 

Father Daly gives the holy communion to a seven-year-old girl, with her parents standing proudly in the background.
Renee Coscia, FCRH ’84, and her husband with their daughter Emily receiving her first holy communion from Father Daly at a church in White Plains, New York, in 2002. He baptized all three of their children and participated in their first holy communions. Photo courtesy of Coscia

An Advocate at Home and Abroad

A black and white photo of Leo Daly as a young man
Father Daly’s high school senior portrait. Photo courtesy of Aptilon

Father Daly was born on July 29, 1930, in Brooklyn, New York, to Joseph Daly, a salesman, and Margaret McGowan Daly, a homemaker, both of whom had Irish heritage. He graduated from Brooklyn Preparatory High School, a Jesuit school in his home borough. He went on to earn a Master of Arts degree from Fordham’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and a degree in counseling psychology from Columbia University. 

Father Daly entered the Society of Jesus in 1948 and was ordained a priest at the Fordham University Church in 1961. He served his fellow New Yorkers in many roles, including assistant principal at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City; administrator at Loyola Seminary in Shrub Oak, New York; high school counselor at Regis High School and Xavier High School in Manhattan; community superior at Xavier High School; and assistant to the rector of the Jesuit community at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City. He conducted retreat work as a staff member and director at St. Ignatius Retreat House on Long Island before it closed in 2012. Father Daly also served communities abroad, as campus minister at the University of Guam and as a chaplain at a U.S. Army missile range in the Marshall Islands.  

Cupcakes that are green, brown, or decorated with the face of a lion
Father Daly’s mother named him Leo because he was born in July, said Beth Tarpey Evans, FCRH ’84. She made him these cupcakes in honor of his 90th birthday. Photo courtesy of Evans

Father Daly was a great storyteller who treasured time with family and friends, said his niece. In his spare time, he loved listening to jazz music and playing golf, she said. 

His friend and former colleague Daniel J. Gatti, S.J, who used to serve as Fordham’s alumni chaplain, recalled the time Father Daly nearly made a 165-yard hole in a single shot—and almost won a free car in the process. 

“Leo was about eight inches [away],” said Father Gatti, who had attended a Fordham Gridiron Golf Outing with Father Daly and two other Jesuits. “The whole day, no one won the car. … But Leo, I think, was the closest,” he said, chuckling.

‘He Served God’s People Well’ 

Four years ago, he was diagnosed with a parotid gland tumor, said McGovern, an OB-GYN whom Father Daly jokingly called his “personal obstetrician.” Despite dealing with serious illness during his final years—surgeries, radiation, immunotherapy, and partial loss of vision and hearing—Father Daly remained cheerful and involved with his Jesuit community and those he loved, said those who knew him. 

“Throughout his long life, he served God’s people well,” Father Gatti said.  

Father Daly is survived by his niece; grandnephew Brandon Craig Aptilon, GABELLI ’22; grandnephew Bradley Edward Aptilon; and nephew, James P. Shortal, his wife, Denise, and their daughter, Kristin. He is predeceased by his sister, Helen Shortal, née Daly, GSE ’49. His wake will be held at Murray-Weigel Hall on Jan. 19 from 3 to 8 p.m. The funeral Mass will be held the next day at the University Church at 11 a.m. and livestreamed on Campus Ministry’s website. Father Daly will be buried at the Jesuit Cemetery in Auriesville, New York. Gifts in his name may be made to the Leo Daly, S.J., Scholarship Fund

Father Daly wearing a mask and standing near a couple with a sign in between them that says "90 Years Loved"
A surprise 90th birthday celebration for Father Daly in 2020. Coscia and her husband and McGovern brought him lobster rolls (at his request) and cake, and decorated the front of Murray-Weigel. Photo courtesy of Coscia

Taylor is a visual storytelling strategist in Fordham University's marketing and communications department, where she documents University life through photography and video. Since joining Fordham in 2018, she has served as a writer, photographer, videographer, and social media manager, dividing her time between University Marketing and Communications and the Office of the President. She earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from Stony Brook University's School of Communication and Journalism and her master's degree in public media from Fordham University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Her work has appeared on NPR, NBC New York, and amNewYork METRO.