By Dr. Raymond Hebert
Thomas More University
Part 46 of our series, “Retrospect and Vista II” Thomas More College/University 1971-2021
In September 1951, Rev. John F. Murphy, STD, succeeded Rev. Joseph Z. Aud as dean and executive administrator of Villa Madonna College. Two years later, in September 1953, Bishop William T. Mulloy demonstrated his commitment to the college by announcing an important change to the title of its executive—president of Villa Madonna College. For a time, Fr. Murphy combined the duties of both president and dean into one responsibility, until Fr. Anthony Deye completed his studies for the doctorate at the University of Notre Dame and returned to the college in September 1956. Deye was appointed academic dean, with an immediate challenge to implement both a concentration program of majors, as well as a core curriculum.
In her Retrospect and Vista: The First 50 Years of the College, Sister Irmina Saelinger, OSB, opened her chapter entitled, “Expansion of Curriculum – Accreditation” by stating: “Fr. Murphy’s administration (in the 1950s) began with a series of planned activities which led to the expansion of curricula, and additional faculty to carry out the policies and goals of the college, to serve the local community and after to open its services to a wider area in offering a strong liberal arts program and special programs within the framework of liberal arts” (Retrospect and Vista, p.34). This insightful vision is reflected in the validity of these words even now, some seventy years later.
One of the beneficiaries of the expansion of academic offerings in the 1950s was the psychology department. Ironically, Fr. William C. Biers, SJ, a friend of Fr. Murphy’s, had become the executive secretary of the American Catholic Psychological Association in the 1950s and had published a pamphlet entitled: “The Place and Function of the Department of Psychology in a Liberal Arts College,” recommending psychology as a field of study for the future of institutions like Villa Madonna College. Simultaneously, a young faculty member holding a temporary position at Xavier University from 1960–1962, Dr. James A. Becker, had just sent a letter of inquiry to Villa Madonna College, with several letters of reference, all dated December 1961.