Rooted in Legacy: Tree Dedication


father richard

Olivia Sabalaskey

“Rooted. Restless,” President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D., exclaimed as he announced Villanova University’s Strategic Plan for the next ten years. Freshmen in the Arts and Culture Learning Community have already embraced this new motto. 

Between Falvey Memorial Library, St. Augustine Center for the Liberal Arts (SAC) and Corr Hall stands a small, yet growing American Linden tree that the Arts and Culture Learning Community planted in their Augustine and Culture Seminar (ACS) class. 

The idea came about while reading and discussing Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” in class together: “We kept reading stories about people turning into trees. So, we decided to plant one here on campus and create a story behind it like in ‘Metamorphoses,’” Professor Noel Dolan, Director of Academic Learning Communities and Senior Instructor in ACS,  said. Dolan loved the idea and got in touch with Villanova’s Horticultural Supervisor, Hugh Weldon, who has been a part of the Villanova community for over 24 years. 

A few weeks after choosing an American Linden and the perfect location on campus for the tree, the class discussed how they could best explain the connection between the tree and their Learning Community’s unique ACS class. 

“The idea to plant a tree here on campus came about after reading ‘Metamorphoses,’ yes, but we wanted to create a story behind it,” a member of the ACS class said. “We decided to dedicate it to freshmen in ACS and to Rev. Richard G. Cannuli, O.S.A., who passed away earlier this year in August.” 

Father Richard, a gifted painter, printmaker and professor of watercolor, oil painting, printmaking and icon painting, was a member of the Villanova community for nearly 50 years. In fact, he designed the stained glass windows seen in Corr Chapel. Most notably, Father Richard designed the new stained glass window memorial that remembers the Villanovans lost on 9/11. His passion for Liturgical art, dedication to the Arts and Culture Learning Community and his legacy will never be forgotten. One of the students explained, “We wanted to dedicate this tree to Father Richard so Villanovans will think of him as they pass by and know that his roots will always remain here at Villanova. Like his artwork, he’ll be here with us, always.” 

Although the 2019-2020 Arts and Culture Learning Community never had the honor of meeting Father Richard, Professor Dolan frequently recalls memories of him in class to keep his spirit alive: “He had such a good way about him; so peaceful, in fact, that my students from previous years would say they found it very soothing.” 

Students in the Arts and Culture Learning Community also wanted to dedicate their tree to freshmen at Villanova: “Like the tree, we’ll grow during our four years here. Even though we’ll graduate, our roots under this tree will always remain here at Villanova.” 

The class will decorate the tree with festive ornaments for upcoming holidays like Christmas in honor of Father Richard and his passion for the arts. They hope that everytime you walk past the tree, you remember Father Richard and reflect on how you’ve grown since your ACS days.