Father William “Bill” S.J. Sullivan

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Father William “Bill” S.J. Sullivan, 84, left to be with our Lord on June 16, 2015.

Father Bill was born Dec. 20, 1930 to Arlie and Bessie Sullivan. He graduated from Campion High School in Prairie du Chien, and was later named the first recipient of an annual distinguished Alumni award.

St. Gabriel was very important to the Sullivans. Bessie always embraced God’s Love, but even more after Arlie’s early untimely death. She attended mass every morning before making breakfast for her three young children at 345 N. Beaumont. Her faith was great and so was her joy of teaching and learning. All three of her children followed her lead. In their adulthood, all three would also reflect on the positively influences their teacher at St. Gabriels and Campion had been.

Bill followed his heart and became a Jesuit priest. He earned his PHD from Yale and joined the Divinity teaching staff at Marquette. From there he accepted the Dean of Divinity at St. Louis University. He was selected to be the Provost at Seattle University in 1975, and it’s president the next year. He served as president for 20 years, bringing the school out of serious financial problems, to great growth and stability. Father Bill was also a great Seattle Community Leader.

He served on numerous boards and was greatly valued by each. He chaired the 1990 Seattle Goodwill games for the City. He nurtured cooperation and harmony among the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths in the Seattle area.

Father Bill always felt honored to perform pastoral celebrations when invited to do so. He lead many a Mass, funeral service, wedding and baptism, including the wedding ceremony of Microsoft’s Bill and Melinda Gates, and the baptism of their three children.

Father Sullivan felt great joy when the University decided to name its new Assisted Living facility after his mother Bessie Burton Sullivan. Sometime later, the University decided it’s new Law School would carry his name.

Bill suffered a stroke in 1996, and stepped down as Seattle U’s presidency, but later was able to accept the schools offer to be its Chancellor for a few years. When his health started to need more attention.

In 2009, he moved to St. Camillus, a full service Jesuit living facility in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. There he lived in a community of retired Jesuit Priests, many he had know for years.

He is survived by his sister, Sister Kathleen Sullivan (Seattle); his brother’s wife Marithe’ Sullivan, Plano, Texas; and several Wisconsin and Illinois cousins. He was proceeded in death by his parents and older brother Loren, as well as several cousins.

Father Bill was gifted, and beautifully developed those gifts for the service of others. A huge number of people were touched and blessed by his Life. He loved growing up in Prairie du Chien, and always cherished return visits when he could.



Visitation is at 6 p.m. on Monday June 22nd at St. Camillus, in Wauwatosa, WI.   The Mass  follows at 7 p.m.   Burial is at 9:30 a.m. on June 23rd at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery  at 3801 W. Morgan Avenue in Milwaukee.

Memorials of thanks for Father Bill’s life can be offered to St. Gabriels, his home parish.

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