Rev. Joseph Allan Panuska, President of the University of Scranton from July 1982 through June 1998, was born July 3, 1927 in Baltimore, Maryland. He attended high school at the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and graduated in 1945 as the valedictorian of his class. He went on to study biology at the Jesuit-run Loyola College in Baltimore, where he received a bachelor of science degree in 1948. Throughout his college years he felt a religious calling, and in 1948 he joined the Society of Jesus. He continued his education at St. Louis University, where he received a licentiate in philosophy (1954) and a doctorate in biology (1958). He was ordained into the priesthood in 1960 at Woodstock College in Maryland and also received a licentiate in sacred theology from Woodstock in 1961. Rev. Panuska finished his Jesuit tertianship in 1962 in Muenster, Germany.
His research specialization in low temperature biology, specifically hypothermia and natural hibernation, landed him a postdoctoral appointment at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta (1962-1963) and later a sabbatical fellowship in the Department of Pathology at Cambridge University (1969-1970). Beginning in 1963, he taught biology at Georgetown University for 10 years, achieving the rank of associate professor in 1966 and full professor in 1972. In 1969, he received the Danforth Foundation's Harbison Prize for Distinguished Teaching. He also served as the rector of the Jesuit community at Georgetown from 1970 until 1973.
In 1973, Fr. Panuska was named Provincial of the seven-state Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, holding the position for six years. His next move (in 1979) was to Boston College, where he served for three years as academic vice president and dean of faculties.
On July 1,1982, two days before his 55th birthday, Rev. Panuska became the 22nd president of the University of Scranton. Fr. Panuska was not unknown to the University, as he had served as a trustee from 1970-1973 and received an honorary degree in 1974. His presidency lasted 16 years, the longest tenure of any president in the school’s history.
During his presidency, Fr. Panuska led the University through a significant changes, including physical expansion (more than $110 million dollars was spent in the construction of 15 new buildings and in the renovation of existing facilities) and a substantial increase in the number of faculty. He championed two successful fundraising campaigns: Second Cornerstone (in celebration of the University's Centennial) and the Campaign for Scranton: Shaping the Future of a Jesuit University. He also worked to improve the University's reputation for academic excellence; since 1983, the University has been ranked consistently as one of the top small universities of the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states.
In February 1997, Fr. Panuska announced that he would resign at the end of the 1997-1998 academic year. In April 1997, the University's Board of Trustees voted unanimously to recognized Panuska by renaming the College of Health, Education, and Human Resources in his honor; it is now known as the Panuska College of Professional Studies.
Following his resignation from the presidency in 1998, Fr. Panuska became rector of the Jesuit community in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. In 2004, he returned to the University of Scranton to serve in the Campus Ministry office. He later left Scranton to serve at the Jesuit Colombiere community in Baltimore, Maryland, and then moved to Manresa Hall at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. He passed away in Philadelphia on February 28, 2017.