In Memoriam: Edmund J. Dobbin, O.S.A., 31st President of Villanova University

In Memoriam: Edmund J. Dobbin, O.S.A., 31st President of Villanova University

Father Edmund J. Dobbin, died peacefully at St. Thomas Monastery, on the campus of Villanova University on Sunday, March 8, 2015. 


Past President of Villanova University

November 20, 1935 – March 8, 2015

          Father Edmund Joseph Dobbin, O.S.A., was born on November 20, 1935, in Brooklyn, New York, one of four sons and a daughter of Edmund H. and Anne V. (Kelly) Dobbin. He was baptized on December 8, 1935 at Saint Anselm Catholic Church, Brooklyn, New York. Later the family moved to Staten Island, New York, where Edmund attended Saint Clare Parish School, from 1941 to 1949, and Augustinian Academy as a day student, from 1949 to 1953. Following graduation from high school, he was received into the Order as a novice on September 9, 1953, and after a year at Good Counsel Novitiate, New Hamburg, New York, he professed first vows on September 10, 1954. He then went to the Augustinian Collegiate Seminary at St. Mary’s Hall, Villanova University, from 1954 until 1958 and there received his BA in Philosophy. He professed solemn vows on September 10, 1957. From 1958 until 1962 he continued his studies at Augustinian College, Washington DC, and received an MA in Theology. He was ordained to the priesthood on February 10, 1962, at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC, by Bishop Phillip Hannan.

            Father Dobbin was first assigned to Malvern Preparatory School, Malvern, Pennsylvania, where, from 1962 to 1967, he served as teacher, disciplinarian, and Chairman of the Mathematics Department. During this time he completed an MA in Mathematics and Physics at the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC. In 1967 he received an STL from the Catholic University of America, and attended the University of Louvain, Belgium, where he received an STD in 1971. He returned to the United States that same year and was assigned to Augustinian College in Washington, DC, where he taught Systematic Theology until 1987. Father Dobbin served various terms as a member of the Board of Trustees at Villanova University and Merrimack College, and was a member of the Provincial Council. In the summer of 1987, Father was assigned to Saint Thomas Monastery and to Villanova University, where he served as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Religious Studies. He was elected President of Villanova University in 1988 and held that position until 2006, becoming the longest serving President of the University in its history. During his tenure as President he heightened awareness of the Augustinian character of the University, significantly increased the school’s endowment, and embarked on an expansion of the campus, its facilities and its programs.

            After stepping down as President of Villanova, Father remained a member of the Villanova Monastery community and returned to his chosen field as a professor of theology until failing health made it necessary for him to retire from the classroom, which he did with great reluctance. “Teaching was always my first love,” he said. “Nothing is more gratifying than being in a classroom and connecting with a student.”

Father Dobbin died on March 8, 2015 at the Villanova Monastery at the age of 79, after an illness of several months. He is survived by two brothers, Raymond and Donald, as well as a sister, Claire M. Reilly.                               


In lieu of flowers, the Augustinian Community of which Fr. Dobbin was a beloved member wishes contributions to be made to the Augustinian Fund: Care of Sick and Elderly, c/o Provincial Offices, P.O. Box 340, Villanova, PA 19085-0340.