Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy in
the early decades of CNR, was
a powerful figure on campus. A former Jesuit who had taught at Fordham
before leaving the Jesuits and becoming chaplain and professor of
at CNR in 1900, Father Halpin died in 1920 at the age of 75 of
“surrounded by the girls and the Sisters he loved.” As reported in the
1921 Annales of CNR, “On the
was so peculiarly and inevitably his, he grew old in peace and, at
away from the homely, quiet routine of the ordered Campus to the
of the life beyond.”
In the 1918 Annales
yearbook one young alumnae recalls this famous figure from her
classroom days at CNR.
As part of our Centennial Celebration, we are reprinting her
recollections of Father Halpin.
Remembering Father Halpin
Not long since, at a little
afternoon tea, one of my friends said:
“Margaret, I gave one of Father Halpin’s books as a Christmas present
this year!” And my heart went pitter-patter with delight to hear of his
fame thus spread; to know that the beautiful thoughts, the wisdom and
the learning of his extraordinary mind, were thus being passed on and
on, to instruct and to inspire.
On my desk, in a little silver
frame, is his picture—only a wee
one, snapped one day with a humble Brownie No.2 by one of us girls
while he was strolling unsuspectingly across the campus. But the small
camera did its
task efficiently; the picture looks just like him! The soldierly
bearing; the tall, splendid figure, with the romantic-looking
cape-cloak thrown around his shoulders; the white hair, blown by the
wind; the keen eyes, looking straight ahead!
I know better than the little
picture, however, how blue they
are—“blue as water, when the sun of March shines through it.” And they
have a way of looking straight through you, into your very soul; yet so
kindly that they cast pretty, golden lights on any dark spots there.
When you come back to college and meet him, he is apt to say: “Look at
me, child!” Then, with the flashlight of those keen eyes, he will
search your heart in an instant; and if you’ve behaved well during the
year or two since your last visit, he
will say, with a humorous twinkle: “You’re all right, child. I can tell
the left corner of your eye.” Under his arm is a little book—I know it
be Coppens, old Coppens’ Logic, with the brick-red cover.
If I try to analyze the charm
him, I fail miserably. Is it his
courtliness of manner; or his keen, peerless intellect; or his exact
justice; or his simplicity and humility; or his gentle, consuming
kindness and charity, which wins you most? I cannot say.
I got to thinking of him
today–inspired, perhaps, by the small,
silver-framed picture. It was as if I were turning the pages of a
picture book of which he was the subject. The pictures did not work out
a story; they were just mental snapshots of him, stored in my memory
ever since those “violent days”—as Helen from Toledo used to call
Come girls, and see the
my memory book of Father
Halpin! Here he is, on a spring afternoon, coming home from his walk
through the village. He is swinging his cane; now he spies the
very little four-year-old girl who lives in the cottage across from the
gym—the cottage with the myrtle or bluebells all over the front lawn.
She has a little bit of a broom with which she is sweeping the walk,
over and over again; she is so busy that she
must keep on sweeping even while she talks with Father Halpin. He
babe hugely. That is one of the wonders of him—the simplicity joined to
greatness which makes him love the little ones, even as his Divine
loved them. It is evident that the little girl likes him very much,
too wee to be conscious of his greatness, yet wise enough to be won by
friendly smile. Gracious, girls! That babe must be ten years old now!
the years are flying!
And here he is again, sitting
desk in our Logic Class.
Remember that front classroom on the first floor, with its two long
rows of chairs? The principles of reasoning he taught us there, and the
beauty of truth. And he had so many, many stories tucked in the lesson.
What a mind is his! Like an immortal’s, truly!
He who had taught the men in
University expected to find
ours a toy college, and us girls not over-clever. But he was pleased,
he used to tell us, to be disillusioned. Now and then, moreover, he
would speak a neat, brief word of counsel, such as this: “Keep your
heart like a poodle with a strong string attached. And don’t let it get
away from you –until you’re
sure.” Or: “Never turn the page of a letter; one page is enough to say
you need to say.”
Maybe it was at our Alpha
meetings, which he attended in
courtly fashion, that he gave us those bits of advice. Alpha Alpha, our
philosophical society which he founded! Remember the meetings in the
beautiful Castle Hall; and how we used to put on our prettiest dresses;
and the papers read; and how we would thrill with pleasure at his least
word of commendation?
In this next picture, girls,
in the chapel—now preaching our
Senior retreat; now our Baccalaureate Sermon. Each word—he used so
few—a ton in weight; each one precisely chosen and beautiful; each one
a precious seed, dropped into our hearts! Are we helping them to grow,
girls, into the splendid plants he meant we should?
And here he is in his study,
books, books, books, from floor
to ceiling—Aquinas, Plato, and countless others! Seated in his big
leather chair he is reading and thinking! On the table near is his set
of Shakespeare—marvel of marvels for tininess! Each volume is as
teeny-weeny as your littlest finger; and the miniature revolving
shelves are made from the tree that grew in
majesty near the great author’s very birthplace! And there, on his
is the little gold statue of the Virgin Mary which he holds in his
each night when he raises them to bless Alma Mater, the fair green
and all who dwell within its happy bounds.
And, girls, I’m sure that
rays from that
nightly blessing reach us, too, and fall on our souls tenderly; for we
Alumnae are all the great and kindly Father Halpin’s own girls.