In the name of the father

Philip Craig

With class registration upon us and a preponderance of Introduction to Theology instructors to choose from, let me help you narrow down your search: take Father Denny.

While it’s true his class meets at 8:30 a.m., don’t let this discourage you – you won’t find the sleep-deprived, brain-dead, can’t-keep-their-heads-off-the-desk students that populate most early morning classes. Instead, Father Denny’s commanding voice, sense of humor and interesting comments make his class an enjoyable event.

It comes as no surprise that Father Denny would eventually work his way to the Augustinian stronghold of Villanova. In fact, it seems almost to have been his destiny. Born in nearby Bryn Mawr Hospital, he was the seventh of eight kids (seven of them boys), and he attended Monsignor Bonner High School in Drexel Hill. Upon graduation, he had a tough decision to make regarding college. His father had graduated from Villanova along with five of his brothers and his brother-in-law. Despite the family tradition, he wanted to look elsewhere.

“As much as I loved my family, I wanted to go somewhere they had never heard of a Denny before,” Denny said, laughing dryly.

He chose to attend Boston College and, upon graduating, entered a career in real estate, where he used his good humor and speaking ability to sell properties.

In 1981 he decided he would rather teach and found a job at his alma mater: Monsignor Bonner. He stayed there until 1985, when he decided to enter seminary school. Denny said that the church had always played a central role in his life. His favorite part of the year at Bonner had always been the religious retreat weekend. Once he realized how important religion and the church were to him, he decided to enter the seminary.

After five years of schooling he was ordained in 1990 and was immediately assigned to return to Bonner as chaplain.

Father Jack Denny first burst upon the Villanova scene in 2001 after spending the previous 11 years at Monsignor Bonner High School, where he served for three years as chaplain, six years as principal and two as president. When he first arrived at Villanova he became the director of vocations and did much of the recruiting for the Augustinian Order.

After holding this position for one year, he transferred and is now the chaplain and counselor of the law school (the first to hold the position). He was happy, but he began to miss teaching.

It was during the spring semester of his first year at Villanova that fate struck again. When a colleague fell ill, the school approached Denny about taking over two Introduction to Theology courses. Denny jumped at the opportunity and has been loving it ever since. He has since scaled back to only one class, but says of teaching, “I love my work with the law school, but this is truly the highlight of my week.”

Father Denny downplays the level of his popularity, but when pressed, he attributes it to the fact that he genuinely enjoys what he is doing and feels that it rubs off on the class. In addition, he feels that with only one class section, he is able to develop relationships with individual students that he might not otherwise be able to do. His sense of humor and his understanding nature don’t hurt either.

Father Denny feels that relating to his students is an integral part of his job. In order to facilitate his understanding of what today’s students are experiencing, he tries to watch TV shows that keep him up to date. One of his favorite channels is VH1, which he tries to watch for at least an hour a week. His favorite show so far is the “Top Ten Video Countdown.”

Let’s hope he doesn’t find these videos representative of the student body.