Robert Joseph Welsh, O.S.A.
Father Robert Joseph Welsh
was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Robert Welsh and Elizabeth
Walpole on 15 July 1921. He had one brother and four sisters. Baptized in
the church of Saint Agatha in Philadelphia on 7 August 1921, he began his
education in that parish. After finishing grammar school he attended West
Catholic High School in Philadelphia, from which he graduated in 1938. After
a semester at La Salle College in Philadelphia, he transferred to
Augustinian Academy, the Preparatory Seminary on Staten Island, New York, as
a post-graduate student. In September 1939, he was received as a novice and
spent a year at Our Mother of Good Counsel Novitiate, where on 10 September
1940, he professed simple vows. Three years later, at Saint Mary's Hall, the
Augustinian collegiate seminary on the Campus of Villanova College in
Pennsylvania, he professed solemn vows. He graduated from Villanova in 1943
with an A.B. degree and began his study of theology at Augustinian College
in Washington, D.C. During the summer months he took graduate courses in
English at the nearby Catholic University of America. On 11 February 1947 he
was ordained to the priesthood at the National Shrine of the Immaculate
Conception in Washington, D.C. Following ordination, he was sent to Collegio
Santa Monica, the Augustinian international house of studies in Rome, Italy.
There he began graduate studies in theology at the Gregorian University. In
1948 he earned an S.T.L., degree and two years later was awarded an S.T.D.
Father Welsh's first assignment was to Augustinian College in
Washington, D.C., where from 1950-1956 he taught moral theology and was
Submaster of Professed. In 1956 he was transferred to Villanova University,
where he taught in the department of theology until 1965. From 1956 to 1959
he also served as Secretary of the Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova. In
1960 he was appointed Assistant Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the
following year became Dean. In 1967 Father Welsh became the 28th President
of Villanova University, a position he held until 1971. These were years of
change and campus unrest during which his patience and understanding was
greatly appreciated by both students and faculty. In 1971 he was named prior
of Augustinian College in Washington, D.C., and was chosen to serve at the
same time as President of the Washington Theological Union. In 1975 he was
elected to the Council of the Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova and was
transferred to Saint Thomas of Villanova Monastery, Villanova, Pennsylvania.
On the Council Father Welsh served as Province Director of Education until
1979. From 1980 to 1984 he brought his wealth of experience to Malvern
Preparatory School, Malvern, Pennsylvania, becoming there a popular and
respected guidance counselor. In 1985 Father Welsh was named treasurer of
the Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova and held that position until 1988.
In that year he was named Assistant to the President of Villanova
University, a position he continued to hold even as his health began to
fail. During his active years in the education apostolate, Father Welsh
served on the Boards of Trustees of Villanova University, of Merrimack
College in North Andover, Massachusetts, and of Malvern Preparatory School,
Malvern, Pennsylvania. A building on the West Campus of Villanova University
has been named in his honor.
A very private person, Father endured with patience the discomfort
associated with the treatment of his final illness giving all with whom he
was associated an example of Christian suffering. At his death Father Welsh
was survived by two sisters, one of whom was an invalid, whom he had
continued to visit even as his own health failed.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at Saint Thomas of Villanova
Church on 11 November 1992. Father Edmund J. Dobbin, O.S.A., then President
of Villanova University, delivered the homily. The following day the
interment took place in the Augustinian plot of Calvary Cemetery in West
Source: Necrology of the Augustinian Provinces of the United States
(Revised, May 2000).