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  • A Tribute to Rodger Van Allen
  • Walter E. Conn, Emeritus Professor and Margaret McGuinness

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Rodger Van Allen at Villanova University

On the occasion of Rodger Van Allen’s retirement as co-editor of American Catholic Studies, it is a distinct pleasure to offer a few words about my great friend’s contribution to Villanova University.

Rodger graduated from Villanova’s School of Business in 1959. There followed spiritual training with the Augustinian Order and military training with the U.S. Army; teaching at Monsignor Bonner High and Devon Prep in the Philadelphia area; a Master’s in Theology from Villanova; marriage to Judy and the start of a family of five marvelous children; and the beginning of a fifty-two year teaching career at his alma mater.

In the early 1970s, with a Temple University PhD in Religion in hand, Rodger began his editorial career. With Villanova colleague Bernard Prusak, he co-founded and co-edited at Villanova Horizons, the award-winning international theology and religion journal of the College Theology Society, a professional organization of teachers and [End Page i] scholars of which he later became president. In 2001 Rodger donned his creative editorial cap once again and transformed the Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia into our multi-disciplinary American Catholic Studies.

To give some sense of Rodger’s fifty-two years on the faculty at Villanova, I will turn to a historical document, appropriately, I hope, for members of a historical society. This document details how Rodger was the first Villanova professor in the university’s long history to win what I like to call the faculty’s Triple Crown, a fact spotlighted in 2001 when the Villanova Alumni Association honored Rodger’s achievement with its St. Thomas of Villanova Medal. I will draw selectively from the 2001 citation that accompanied this medal (without the necessary updating to cover his last fifteen years at Villanova).

This year’s medal is awarded to Rodger Van Allen, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University. Three major faculty awards are given each year at Villanova, one for teaching, one for scholarship, and one for service. In the university’s entire history, only one faculty member has won all three awards: Rodger Van Allen. Professor Van Allen would be an outstanding faculty member at any of the nation’s great universities, and thus worthy of being honored; the fact that he has contributed his remarkable talents to his alma mater makes it especially fitting for the Alumni Association to acknowledge his achievement . We will comment briefly on this achievement in each of the faculty award areas.

The Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching. In over thirty-five years of teaching, Professor Van Allen has shared his expertise and, more importantly, his wisdom with almost 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students in all of the university’s colleges. The Lindback Award, voted for by students and critically reviewed by peers, signifies the superior quality of his relationships with these students. Few professors have influenced so many Villanova students so positively.

The Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award. Of all of Professor Van Allen’s published research, perhaps the work that will be recognized far into the future is his definitive two-volume history of the influential Catholic lay periodical Commonweal. This work represents his distinctive interest in the life of the Church as experienced by American Catholics in the twentieth century, and is a major contribution to Villanova’s reputation in the scholarly world.

The Lawrence C. Gallen, OSA Faculty Service Award. Service to the university community is a large part of what makes Villanova great. To be very select, Professor Van Allen’s contribution includes: twice chairing the Faculty Council; serving three times as president of Villanova’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors; serving on the Executive Committee of the University [End Page ii] Senate; and serving for several terms as a member of the University Rank and Tenure Committee.

With this St. Thomas of Villanova Medal, the Alumni Association honors the entire Villanova faculty by honoring an alumnus who represents the faculty at its very best. In...


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