University celebrates life of former President Rev. Dobbin



Maria McGeary


The Villanova community celebrates the life and legacy of the Rev. Edmund J. Dobbin, O.S.A., former university president, who passed away during spring recess on the evening of Sunday, March 8. Serving as the University’s 31st president and alumnus from the class of 1958, Father Dobbin not only sustained the longest presidency in school history, but also elevated Villanova in more ways than one.

Beloved and admired by numerous stu- dents, faculty and staff, Father Dobbin pio- neered the campus into a new age of tech- nology into the 21st century, spearheading immense progress in all areas of campus life.

President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., a graduate student of Father Dobbin’s at the Washington Theological Union described him as “techy.” The former president was a high-ranking theologian with a strong back- ground in Mathematics and Physics, earn- ing his MA in these subjects at the Catholic University of America. His interest persisted long after his academic career, as he refused to be left behind by the surge of technologi- cal advancements.

Dobbin extended this knowledge to the University, pushing the campus into a new age of technologically informed learning. CEER was designed with this exact inten- tion, and many other construction projects can be attributed to Father Dobbin, includ- ing The St. Augustine Center for Liberal Arts, the Health Services Building and the West Campus Complex. In addition, Father Dobbin initiated renovations of the Mendel Science Center, Bartley Hall and the St. Thomas of Villanova Church.

Dobbin nurtured a lifelong passion not only to advance his own knowledge, but also to bring Villanova into a new age of innova- tion. The first Chief of Information Officer was appointed under his presidency, a posi- tion created for the continued advancement of technology on campus. He introduced the student laptop program and returned to the classroom in his 70’s with complete knowl- edge of the technology available to students and professors.

His commitment to advancement didn’t stop with technology. Executive Vice President Kenneth Valosky stated that Father Dobbin believed in the importance of “finan- cial solid footing, today but also sustainability for the future.” Dobbin had immense influence on the increase in financial assis- tance for students and the responsible use of the University’s financial endowment. Valosky went on to say that Dobbin “was passionate and invested in Villanova’s finan- cial future.”

According to the University, “the endow- ment grew from approximately $20.6 million to nearly $279 million” from 1989 to 2005, just one year prior to his final year as presi- dent. Donohue also cited the former presi- dent’s love for athletics.

Dobbin hired Jay Wright, securing the success of Villanova Basketball for the past decade. He was also committed to widening the geographic diversity of the student body, reaching out to potential Villanovans from all across the country.

Dobbin was also devoted to re-establish- ing the Augustinian mission to Villanova. Donohue called him “one of the best teach- ers I’ve ever had…fascinating to watch and animated in the classroom.” Donohue went on to describe Dobbin as well respected, extremely intelligent and passionate about the Augustinian ministry. This is evidenced by the construction of the St. Augustine Center for Liberal Arts within the first four years of his presidency. This building cement- ed the University’s re-commitment to its Augustinian roots.

Kathryn Szumanski ’95, an undergraduate at Villanova dur- ing Dobbin’s presidency and current Director of Professional Development in the Office for Undergraduate Students said, “I remember hearing Dobbin talk about what is etched on the front entrance wall to the St. Augustine Center for the Liberal Arts: ‘Set love as the criterion for all that you say, and whatever you teach, teach in such a way that the person to whom you speak, by hearing may believe, by believing, hope and by hoping, love.’ Dobbin, through his public addresses to our com- munity, brought this idea to life for me. It is a belief that empow- ers, inspires and motivates me as a current Villanova staff member, instructor, proud alum and citizen of our world.”

On his return to teaching in 2008 after his retirement, Dobbin sat down with The Villanovan to share his thoughts on his career path and calling. Dobbin said, “Teaching was always my first love. Nothing is more gratifying than being in a classroom and connecting with a student.” Even in his passing, that connection with the Villanova community, as well as his legacy will continue to be felt around campus.