Edward F. Jenkins, O.S.A.

1906 – 1991 (July 12)

Edward Felix Jenkins was born August 17, 1906 in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Benjamin Wheeler Jenkins and Jane Marie Clarke. He was baptized on September 4, 1906 in the Old Cathedral there. His immediate family consisted of two brothers and a sister, however, the Jenkins were a large Catholic family, whose roots were in Saint Mary’s, Charles and Baltimore counties from Colonial days. In 1909, his family moved to Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, where Edward attended the Wilkes Barre Academy and Coughlan High School, from which he graduated in 1923. He attended Villanova College, Villanova, PA, from which he received an A.B. degree in 1927 with a major in Latin and the Humanities and with a minor in Biology and Chemistry. In September, 1927, he entered the novitiate and professed simple vows on September 9, 1928. On September 9, 1931, he pronounced solemn vows. Edward studied theology at Augustinian College in Washington, D.C., and was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Shahan in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on June 9, 1931. Following ordination, he began full-time graduate studies in chemistry at the Catholic University in Washington. 

During the summer of 1931, he was appointed submaster of professed students at Saint Rita’s Cottage, Sea Isle City, New Jersey. In the summer of 1933, he was assistant at Saint Rita’s Church in Chicago, Illinois. In 1935, Father Jenkins was assigned to Villanova College as a part-time instructor in chemistry while he continued his graduate studies. In 1939, he received his doctorate in chemistry with minors in biology-physics and mathematics. Until 1961 Father Jenkins taught a variety of subjects in the science department of Villanova University.

Father Jenkins remarked that he obtained his graduate degree because Villanova needed a chemistry instructor, but his real interest was astronomy. During the summer of 1951, while assisting at the Colegio San Agustin in Havana, Cuba, he observed from the roof of the residence the star Venus and decided to build a telescope. With the help of a friend at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, he learned how to grind lenses and build a telescope, which was mounted in an observatory on the top floor of the present Tolentine Hall. In 1957, Villanova decided to erect a new science building, and Father Jenkins prevailed upon the University to include an observatory and planetarium, In 1961, a degree program was offered in astronomy under his direction. He served as chairman of the department until 1974, when he reached the age of retirement, but he continued to work in the department until shortly before his death.

Father Jenkins was a member of the Saint Thomas Monastery community for thirty-five years, and as the campus of the University changed over the years, his familiar figure was most welcome to the alumni returning for various reunions. He retained a keen mind and possessed a phenomenal memory. There were very few topics which he could not discuss. He died peacefully, on July 12, 1991, one day after a total eclipse of the sun.

A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated on Tuesday, July 16, at Saint Mary’s Hall Chapel. The celebrant was the Prior Provincial, John Hagen, O.S.A., assisted by Father Devereau, S.J., a cousin of Father Jenkins. Father John Farrell, O.S.A., was the homilist. Father Jenkins is buried in the Augustinian Plot of Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.