Rev. Lorenzo Cornelius McCarthy, O.P.

Rev. Lorenzo Cornelius McCarthy, O.P.THIRD PRESIDENT, 1927-1936

Birth: June 19, 1888, in Providence, R.I.

Death: June 28, 1941, in Narragansett, R.I.


In 1927, Provincial Rev. James Raymond Meagher, O.P., PC advocate and adviser, chose a young Dominican already well known at the College and throughout the state to lead both the academic and religious communities. Rev. Lorenzo Cornelius McCarthy, O.P. had served at PC as a professor of chemistry and philosophy from opening day, in September 1919 to 1924 and as a Corporation member since 1922. He was the first native Rhode Islander to assume the presidency, and his family was prominent in civic, political, and business circles. Father McCarthy, elected as third College president and Corporation treasurer on June 16, 1927, was familiar with the personalities and responsibilities involved in PC governance and with the progress of and plans for the young institution he now headed.

The duties of the Office of President evolved during Father McCarthy’s nine-year tenure. The president taught courses in philosophy from 1927 to 1934 and religion from 1934 to 1936. The formal PC/St. Pius V Parish connection ended in 1929 when the parish’s Friars established their own administrative structure. However, the ties between the neighboring properties and intermingling communities remain strong and mutually beneficial. Upon assuming office, Father McCarthy was immediately engaged in planning the four-story Harkins Hall addition, the first expansion of academic and administrative facilities.

The College’s academic reputation was much enhanced by the curriculum revisions and acceptance into the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools accomplished during the McCarthy era. In 1933, because the Dominican constitution would not allow another term, Father McCarthy was replaced as head of the religious community, and he became assistant treasurer of the Corporation. However, the province and the diocese kept the talented Father McCarthy as PC president for another three years. His leadership in public service, notably participation in interfaith seminars and city and state tercentenary celebrations, was widely acknowledged by the time he left the College in August 1936. Posthumous recognition included the dedication of the May 1942 edition of the PC student yearbook, Veritas, and the 1945 christening of a World War II cargo ship, the S.S. Lorenzo McCarthy.


Although born in Providence, Lorenzo, the fourth of 12 children of James M. and Mary (Prosser) McCarthy grew up in Woonsocket, R.I. James was a banker, department store owner, and police commissioner. Lorenzo attended public schools in Woonsocket but finished his secondary education at La Salle Academy, the diocesan high school in downtown Providence conducted by the Christian Brothers. After graduating with honors in 1905, he enrolled at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. He received his bachelor of arts degree from the Jesuit-run institution in 1909 and spent a year as principal at Harrisville Grammar School in Burrillville, R.I..

In September 1910, Lorenzo entered St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore with the intention of becoming a diocesan priest. His Dominican training began at St. Joseph’s Priory in Somerset, Ohio, where he was accepted into the novitiate in 1914 and professed in 1915. He pursued his courses in theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., from 1915 to 1917, and was ordained in Washington on Sept. 17, 1917.

Father McCarthy earned several degrees before his initial assignment to the PC faculty — bachelor of arts from Holy Cross, lectorate in sacred theology from the House of Studies, and master of arts from The Catholic University of America in Washington, and master of science from Columbia University in New York City. In 1924, he was granted a leave of absence for research and study in psychology. He was awarded a Ph.D. degree from Louvain University in Belgium in 1926. Father McCarthy was the first PC president to earn a doctorate and to receive an honorary degree (College of the Holy Cross, LL.D., 1930).


Father McCarthy’s assignment before joining the PC faculty in 1919 was as an instructor of novices at St. Joseph’s Priory. He spent the year between completion of his doctoral program and reassignment to Providence College, 1926-1927, traveling in Europe and the Near East and serving as dean of the Department of Philosophy at the Dominican House of Studies in River Forest, Ill.

Father McCarthy spent the year after leaving PC doing parish work at St. Mary’s in New Haven, Conn., and traveling as a national lecturer for the Catholic Thought Association. He returned to teaching philosophy at the Dominican House of Studies in River Forest in 1937 and then moved to The Catholic University, where he taught psychology from 1938 to 1940. His last assignment was to St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in New York City.

— Jane M. Jackson, 2003