He lives in two small rooms and gives his salary to the Jesuit order. He also moves around Washington in a chauffeur-driven car and turns up often as a dinner guest of the capital's political and journalistic glitterati. o
The Rev. Timothy S. Healy says mass fervently, but in conversation he can also be forcefully profane.
As president of Georgetown University for the last four years, Healy has walked along difficult paths -- those of peaching morality and raising funds, of advancing Catholic doctrine and leading a complex university whose faculty and courses are largely secular.
"If i could give you a rule for all this, I'd love to," Healy said in an interview recently, sitting in his ornate office wearing a somewhat rumpled black suit with a clerical collar. "There are balances that have to be made, and a man has to make them. I believe deeply in academic freedom and in making this a better world."
But in the face of widespread criticism of American education, Healy remains an optimist, almost a booster, saying that schools and colleges are doing better than many realize -- better specifically at teaching men and women about freedom and accepting diversity.
"The old prejudices against Jews and against blacks have diminished. Women have been brought in," Healy said. We're immeasurably richer in a variety of ways. I'm an optimist. I opt that we're better now."
At the same time, he acknowledges the declining test scores and other problems. "I suppose students are not as well prepared instrumentally [for college] as they used to be," he says. "They're made to write less than we used to do." But, as usual he finds hope: "On the other hand, the best of them respond well to direct therapy -- like a couple of Fs on papers."
Healy has filled the president's job at Georgetown since July 1976. He has reorganized its administrators, raised millions to boost its shaky finances, cheered its basketball teams, and pressed relentlessly to enhance its academic reputation.
Somehow, he has also found time to be a teacher, giving a course in poetry each semester to undergraduates. He returns their papers promptly every week, often splashed with comments in red ink. The students return the compliment. The attention, they say, shows that Healy cares about them -- no matter what else he may care about in the university.
This fall's class covered John Donne, the 17th century English poet who was the subject of Healy's work for a doctorate at Oxford University, and T.S. Eliot. It met Monday mornings in a room near his office called the Hall of Cardinals because of the portraits of 15 red-robed cardinals on its wood-paneled walls.
"It's a little bit intimidating at first," said one student. "You get in there, and there are all those cardinals looking down at you. After a little while you get used to it. Father Healy's incredibly knowledgeable and incredibly open. He's an intellectual . . . Some people don't think that because he seems like such a regular guy. He swears sometimes. You don't expect a Jesuit to do that. But he can take an idea and tear it apart, and show you everything that's in there. That's extraordinary."
"I teach first because I enjoy it," Healy said. "It's my trade. I don't want to lose it. . . . It's the only place in the day where something happens -- directly. Normally, I'm trying to persuade you to persuade somebody to persuade somebody to do something. It's about fifth removed from this office.
[The class] is the only place in the day where soluble problems arise," he continued. "Usually, by the time a problem reaches me six better people than I have had it and can't solve it so it comes to me as a last resort. Whereas, in [class] the problem is a normal stand-up one and I can deal with it."
Robust and ruddy, a regular swimmer at age 57, Healy reads Virgil in Latin while flying to fund-raisers, plays bach and then jazz on the stereo in his office, lives in two rooms in a Jesuit dormitory and belongs to three of Washington's "best" clubs -- the Cosmos, Metropolitan, and University.
"He's a paradoxical figure," one friend said. "He is garrulous but shy. He says a lot, but he is a hard man to classify. . . . He doesn't fit well into the stereotypes."
To some critics Healy spends too much time on fund-raising and attending dinners with politicians and well-known journalists, embassy parties, and shows at the Kennedy Center. He says this comes with the job of being a university president and helps gain attention and money for Georgetown. Its endowment of $60 million is far less than that of most universities of similar reputation, such as Brown and Duke.
Healy also talks frequently about the divide in Washington between the city's powerful and its poor and has earmarked scholarship funds for low-income students from D.C. public schools.
Healy said he has sought to increase the enrollment of blacks at Georgetown, but they still number just 7 percent. "There's no doubt it should be higher," Healy said. "It is as high as we can afford [in financial aid]."
Healy is a Jesuit and heads the nation's oldest Jesuit university, founded in 1789. He celebrates mass in a student dormitory almost every day. Yet last year he stirred substantial criticism among Catholics by ordering that references to the Trinity be dropped from prayers at graduation and other compulsory university functions.
Healy's directive was assailed in the Catholic Standard, the newspaper of the Washington Archidiocese, and several other Catholic publications as a wrong-headed retreat from Georgetown's traditional Catholic identity. But Healy stuck to it, and the controversy subsided. He made it clear that the baccalaureate mass and all other Catholic religious services on campus -- about 65 a week -- would continue unchanged.At other university functions that "are not of their nature Roman Catholic or anything else" Healy said the prayers should be ecumenical as "an act of courtesy" to the many non-Catholics expected to attend.
"We're a pluralistic university, and on academic occasions we ought to be able to pray in a way that everybody can take part, Healy said. "I'm sure God recognizes many distinctions."
Almost 40 percent of Georgetown's 11,500 students are not Catholic.
On several matters of Catholic doctrine, Healy has been firm. He forced the editors of a student newspaper to drop an ad for an abortion referral service several years ago by threatening to stop publication, which is partly subsidized by the university. Last spring he refused to grant official recognition and subsidy to a student homosexual group.
The homosexual organization is still allowed to meet on campus, but it has filed on antidiscrimination lawsuit against the university. Healy refused to comment because of the suit.
On the abortion referral ad, he said: "My conscience wouldn't allow it . . . . The university could not be forced to spend its money [in subsidizing the newspaper] on what it finds morally abhorrent."
Shortly after Healy became president, Georgetown hired a rabbi as its first full-time Jewish chaplain. Jews make up an estimated 10 percent of university enrollment, and Healy himself, wearing a yarmulke, has attended Jewish New York services in the university's Gaston Hall.
Yet Georgetown has drawn fire from some Jewish groups for what critics say is the "anti-Israel bias" of its Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. Healy was criticized after accepting a $750,000 gift from Libya and $1 million gifts from two other Arab goverments. But when he returned a $50,000 check to Iraq in 1978 Healy drew fire from the opposite direction. Hisham Sharabi, a Gerogetown history professor who strongly supports the Palestine Liberation Organization, called him a "Jesuit Zionist," and said Healy was damaging the university, though in a recent interview Sharabi said he has "no quarrel" with Healy now.
Healy said he has tried for a balance of viewpoints on the Middle East among Georgetown's faculty. About the gifts, he said, "The university has accepted no gift which has reduced its freedom to pick faculty or students, to do research or to accept other gifts."
Healy drew criticism from the left for an exchange program with Iran while the shah was in power and for welcoming former secretary of state Henry Kissinger as a professor.
Recently, he has been criticized from the right because of Georgetown's efforts to develop academic exchanges with communist China and from the left again because of the university's prominence, particularly of its Center for Strategic and International Studies, as a source of conservative advisers and ideas for President-elect Reagan.
"Should a Jesuit university . . . exercise a thought police function over its faculty? Emphatically no," he declared in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter.
"I'm not really interested in defending the university's reputation against either right or left," Healy continued. "Like any big, complex place we have both sides and every now and then one's up and the other's down."
Healy was born in New York City and describes himself as "a professional New Yorker." But his mother came from Texas and his father, a petroleum engineer turned children's radio performer by the Depression, from Australia.
Healy became a Jesuit at age 17 when he graduated from Regius High School, a Jesuit prep school in New York. "My family didn't think I'd last very long," he remarked. He received his theological training at Woodstock College, a Jesuit seminary, and then earned a Licentiate in Sacred Theology at Louvain University in Belgium.
Healy was a high school English and Latin teacher in New York in the late 1940s. He then taught English at New York's Fordham University for almost two decades, rising through its administrative ranks to become executive vice president. He earned his doctorate at Oxford in 1965 at age 42.
In 1969 Healy put on a business suit though remaining a priest and became a vice chancellor for academic affairs at the City Unversity of New York. He also tried to create two new colleges -- for poor residents of Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant and for New York prison inmates. But both efforts failed because of insufficient financing.
Through all these ventures, Healy has remained a priest. Not only does he say mass regularly and deliver sermons, but he turns over all his earnings to the Jesuit community, and spends part of most evenings at Georgetown Hospital visiting with students and faculty. "Some people around here say the best way to meet the president is to get seriously sick," Healy said.
He sees VIP patients as well. "When Elizabeth Taylor was in the hospital, I did yield," he said. "I did want to see her up close, and I went in. . . . She is beautiful."
Quietly Healy has gone out of his way to help individual students, in one case arranging for special accommodations and nursing for a junior who broke both wrists and a leg in a drunken prank, trying to tear down a banner outside Healy's second-floor office.
Although he has pressed for higher academic standards, Healy also has taken a warm interest, in Georgetown's basketball teams, which have soared to national prominence under Coach John Thompson. Last year a few student government leaders said the university spent too much money on basketball. But Healy defended the team as a focus of campus unity and example of beauty, as well as a being good for recruiting and fund-raising. "A well-played basketball game is an object of great beauty," Healy said. "And beauty is always educative. It enlarges the soul."
Georgetown's recent role as a well-publicized source of Reagan advisers gave him joy, Healy wrote to the university's board of directors. But he added that his second reaction was "to hope that to replace them we'll be able to recruit among the hordes of talented and able Democrats who are suddenly without jobs."
"Listen old buddy," he said later in an interview. "I'm a Democrat . . . I'm a New York Irish Catholic. I was born with a party affiliation. It came with baptism."