In Memoriam: William Hugh McInerney

When Bill McInerney died of cancer on November 12, it was after 64 years of marriage to his beloved wife, Mary; six decades as an attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area; and 42 years as a member of the Thomas Aquinas College President’s Council. “Bill was a man of commitment,” reflects President Michael F. McLean. “He was a very good and very loyal friend.”

Born in Los Angeles, Mr. McInerney lost his father shortly after birth. In the seventh grade he lost his mother as well, and moved to be with family in Oakland, where he would remain for the rest of his life. While attending college in the late 1940s, he met and dated Mrs. McInerney, during which time the couple developed a great love for Catholic education. They wed while Mr. McInerney was a law student, and went on to bless the world with 4 children and 15 grandchildren.

Upon graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law in 1950, Mr. McInerney worked briefly in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office before entering private practice. He was a founding member of the Oakland law firm of McInerney and Dillon, working there until his retirement earlier this year. He focused his legal practice on construction law, becoming a leader in the field and representing some of the nation’s largest contractors.

A faithful and active Catholic, Mr. McInerney was generous to numerous educational and charitable endeavors. Most recently, he and Mrs. McInerney led the effort to establish a free Order of Malta medical clinic for the poor at Oakland’s Christ the Light Cathedral. Additionally, Mr. McInerney served as corporate counsel for the Sisters of Holy Names of Jesus, chairman of the Board of Directors of Hanna Boys Center, chairman of St. Anne’s Little Sisters of the Poor, and a member of the Board of Regents for Saint Ignatius College Preparatory. A Knight of Malta, he brought malades on 23 pilgrimages to Lourdes.

Yet by his own admission, McInerney was initially reluctant to support Thomas Aquinas College. He first learned about the school through his friend John Schaeffer, a founding member of the Board of Governors, in the late 1960s. “John’s enthusiasm about the College was appealing to us,” Mr. McInerney remarked in a 2010 interview, but it put the McInerneys “in a very difficult position.” As former president of his own college’s alumni association, he found himself divided between the school he had attended and the nascent one he was coming to admire.

This tension dissipated as his alma mater sadly went the way of so many Catholic institutions in the 1960s and 1970s, gradually diminishing its fidelity to the Magisterium and teachings of the Catholic faith. “It wasn’t all in one fell swoop, but it was one thing after another,” said Mr. McInerney. “I became slowly disenchanted.” Although seeing the school he had loved fade was painful, the pain was eased by the establishment of a new college that he and his wife could support without reservation. As time went on, “We became more attached to Thomas Aquinas College,” said Mr. McInerney, and a decades-long friendship took root. The McInerneys joined the President’s Council at the time of its founding and never left. The couple also regularly participated in the College’s annual Great Books Seminar Weekends.

“We will miss Bill’s cheerful presence at those weekends,” says Dr. McLean. “We pray for the repose of the soul of this dear friend and for the consolation of Mary and their beautiful family.”

Posted: November 18, 2013