WASHINGTON, D.C. — As president of one of the country’s leading publishers of catechetical and educational materials, William Sadlier Dinger sought out parish catechists and teachers so he could learn what they needed and to make sure his company’s books met their needs.
Colleagues recalled how he instilled that practice throughout the operations of New York City-based publisher William H. Sadlier Inc. during his 25-plus years as president.
Dinger, who stepped down to become president emeritus and special adviser to the company in 2017, died Nov. 11 at his home. He was 77.
He and his brother, Frank Sadlier Dinger, who served as company chairman, shared a deep Catholic faith and worked for more than 50 years to develop materials that educators and catechists would turn to in their vital work of teaching and handing on the faith to young people.
Professional colleagues recalled Dinger, known throughout the publishing industry as Bill, for his devotion to the Catholic faith, which was enriched by serving catechists.
“He listened to our customers. He wanted to know what they needed in order to be more effecting in sharing the faith with their students,” said Carole Eipers, who worked at Sadlier as executive vice president for catechetics from 2001 to 2012.
Rosemary Calicchio, who was executive vice president for publishing at Sadlier for 15 years before retiring, called Dinger “a good a faithful servant” of God.
“His energy and dedication to catechists was never ending,” Calicchio told Catholic News Service. “He personally worked with catechists and authors to craft programs for systematic catechesis. He attended conferences and myriad meetings to uncover the program needs of catechists and children.”
Another former colleague, Sabrina Magnuson, currently associate publisher at Our Sunday Visitor curriculum, said Dinger’s commitment to Catholic education was unsurpassed in the publishing business. She said his support of the U.S. bishops in their effort to improve catechetical materials guided Sadlier in its efforts to provide excellent resources to parishes and schools.
Eipers also held up Dinger for his dedication to family, especially his wife, Maureen, as well as his sons and grandchildren. That dedication extended to employees as well, telling them that their first duty was to tend to family needs when illness or other circumstances warranted.
The National Catholic Educational Association has partnered with the company since 1904. Its president and CEO, Tom Burnford, lamented the loss of Dinger.
“Bill was a wonderful friend and mentor to me over the years and I will miss him deeply,” Burnford said in a statement. “His passion for Catholic education will be long remembered and his contributions to both the education and publishing communities will benefit children for generations to come.”
Dinger joined the family-run company in 1963 as a sales representative after graduating from the University of Notre Dame and rose through the ranks of the publishing house to become president in 1991. Brother Frank joined Sadlier in 1964 after completing a stint in the U.S. Army and later became chairman. Their father, F. Sadlier Dinger, was chairman of the board when the brothers joined the firm.
The brothers, who shared leadership of the company, are direct descendants of Denis and James Sadlier, Irish immigrants who in 1832 founded the religious publishing business. The company today is named for the brothers’ great-grandfather, William H. Sadlier.
A company biography explained that when Dinger became president, he felt the company’s product line needed to be expanded and resources in phonics and grammar were added. He maintained close ties with the Latino catechetical community throughout his career and spearheaded an effort to develop bilingual materials for students who spoke Spanish to meet a growing need throughout the church in the U.S.
Dinger was widely recognized for his work by numerous professional organizations and higher education institutions. He was inducted into the Association of Educational Publishers Hall of Fame in 2008. In 2009 he and his brother received the NCEA’s St. Elizabeth Ann Seton President’s Award and later the Lifetime Dedication Award from “Today’s Catholic Teacher.” He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Catholic Publishers in 2014.
He was active in several educational organizations, serving on the board of directors of the Mid-Atlantic Catholic Schools Consortium and the Catholic School Accreditation Association and the Dean’s Advisory Board of Mercy College. He also was a member of the Task Force for the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools and the Steering Committee for the Common Core Catholic Identity Initiative.
The publishing executive also was active in collaborative efforts in New York City, having arranged for disabled children from the Manhattan Occupational Training Center to work in the company’s office. The company also has worked with the Cristo Rey New York High School work-study program since 2004.
Dinger was a member of the Knights of Malta, volunteering as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.
In 2013, officials at the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family sought Dinger’s assistance in publishing in English Pope Francis’ teachings on the family, which later served as foundational documents for the 2014 Synod of Bishops on the family.
He is survived by his wife, Maureen, sons William Sadlier Dinger Jr. and Michael Sadlier Dinger, and four grandchildren.