Led Villanova during era of growth

The Rev. John M. Driscoll led from 1975 to 1988, a term when a couple of landmarks opened.
The Rev. John M. Driscoll led from 1975 to 1988, a term when a couple of landmarks opened.
Posted: March 06, 2011

The Rev. John M. Driscoll, 87, president of Villanova University from 1975 to 1988, who added dormitories and other buildings as part of a campus expansion, died Thursday, March 3, at the campus monastery.

Villanova University, 1842- 1992, by David R. Contosta, found that through the school's 31 presidencies to that time, three of the men had been "outstanding," and Father Driscoll was one, according to a 1995 Inquirer review of the book.

In a statement on the university website, the Rev. Peter Donohue, the current president, noted that Father Driscoll's tenure had included the completion of the Connelly Center - a gathering place for students that includes a dining space, a movie theater, and an art gallery - and the Pavilion, the basketball arena.

To recognize Father Driscoll's significant impact on the university, in 2008 the new home of the College of Nursing was named Driscoll Hall.

In 1978, he was elected president of the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Universities.

Born in Philadelphia, Father Driscoll graduated from St. Thomas More High School in 1940, entered the Augustinian Order in 1942, earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy at Villanova in 1948, and was ordained at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington in 1951.

After receiving a master's degree in philosophy at Catholic University of America in 1952, Father Driscoll began his teaching career at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington from 1952 to 1956.

He taught at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., from 1956 to 1960 and for a year after that lived at Augustinian College in Washington while working on his doctorate. He then returned to Merrimack, where from 1961 to 1965 he was philosophy teacher and prior.

He earned his doctorate in philosophy at Catholic University in 1964.

In 1965, Villanova named Father Driscoll its vice president for academic affairs.

When he was named president in 1975, The Inquirer reported that he was "expected to be a less controversial figure" than his predecessor, "an outspoken man whose strong conservatism and sometimes hot temper embroiled him in several controversies with the students."

The newspaper reported that Father Driscoll had "acted as a mediator between the students and the administration during several of the controversies."

After ending his term, Father Driscoll returned to Merrimack as prior of its Augustinian community from 1988 to 1995.

Since then, he had lived at the Villanova monastery.

Father Driscoll is survived by a sister, Frances A. Boyd.

A viewing was set from 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 7, at the campus church of St. Thomas of Villanova before a Funeral Mass at 8. Campus burial will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 8.

Contact staff writer Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.

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